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ANZ to buy back up to A$1.5B of shares; ICICI Securities files for IPO

GREATER CHINA

* The China Insurance Regulatory Commission issued draft rules restricting the business activities of insurers with low asset-liability management capabilities, Xinhua News Agency reported. The regulator will rate insurers based on certain factors, and those with low ratings will be banned from certain investment activities. The proposed rules are open to revisions and will be implemented in 2018, the report said.

* China and the U.K. agreed to expedite the introduction of a London-Shanghai stock exchange connect program, which will allow investors in each country to trade shares listed on the other's stock exchange, Reuters reported, citing U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond. The two countries are also discussing the possibility of connecting their bond markets, Hammond said.

* China Development Bank and Guangxi Investment Group will set up funds totaling 50 billion yuan to invest in the One Belt One Road Initiative in Southern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and some Southeast Asian countries, Reuters reported. The funds will be used to support infrastructure and industrial projects that are part of the initiative.

* Taiwan's central bank said Lei Chung-dar, the incumbent chairman of Taiwan Cooperative Financial Holding Co. Ltd. and Taiwan Cooperative Bank Ltd., is set to become a director of the central bank, replacing Liao Tsan-chang, former chairman of the financial holding company, Liberty Times reported.

JAPAN AND KOREA

* Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund decided to pay the interest on deposits mandated by the central bank's negative rate policy, The Nikkei reported. The pension fund currently uses Trust & Custody Services Bank, part of Mizuho Financial Group Inc., to handle its deposits.

* Japan Post Bank Co. Ltd. is considering a possible alliance with regional banks by undertaking their asset management operations in a bid to help improve performance and cut costs, The Kyodo News reported.

* The business merger between Japan's Mie Bank Ltd. and Daisan Bank Ltd. was approved at the special shareholder meetings of both companies, The Nikkei reported. The merger is scheduled to take effect in April 2018, with holding company San Ju San Financial Group Inc. to be formed April 2, 2018.

* Major South Korean commercial banks are expected to increase their mortgage-backed loan interest rates to up to 15 basis points, following the adjustment of the country's cost of funds index rate, The Financial News reported.

ASEAN

* Thai Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the ministry is planning to offer tax incentives in a bid to promote mergers among banks in Thailand, Manager Daily reported. The decision is aimed at strengthening local financial institutions and improving their competitiveness against foreign lenders, he added.

* The Bank of Thailand, which is currently looking into the potential benefits and impact of Bitcoin, has advised investors who lack understanding of the cryptocurrency to refrain from investing due to its volatility, Thai Rath reported, citing Finance Minister Apitsak Tantivorawong.

* Bank Negara Malaysia is meeting and seeking feedback from digital currency exchangers regarding reporting obligations under the country's anti-money laundering laws, The Sun Daily reported, citing Deputy Governor Abdul Rasheed Ghaffour.

* The Ha Noi Stock Exchange said three local investors bought all the shares of Agribank Gold Joint Stock Corp. offered by Vietnam Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development, at an average bidding price of 15,044 dong apiece, Viet Nam News reported. As a result, the bank earned 189.79 billion dong from the auction.

SOUTH ASIA

* Not all Indian banks will be qualified for recapitalization bonds in the first tranche, as the planned capital infusion would be subject to a lender's performance, reforms undertaken and a future roadmap, Press Trust of India reported, citing "people aware of the development," including an unnamed senior official. The infusion amount during the current fiscal will be determined after the country's parliament approves the plan.

* ICICI Bank Ltd. unit ICICI Securities Ltd. filed a draft prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Board of India for an IPO of up to 64,428,280 shares, representing 20% of the unit's equity share capital. The company will raise 30 billion rupees to 35 billion rupees from the IPO, The Economic Times reported, citing "a banker familiar with the matter."

* State Bank of India and U.S.-based Carlyle Group LP completed the acquisition of GE Capital Group's stake in SBI Card, bringing their stakes to 74% and 26%, respectively. The credit card franchise operates through two joint venture companies, namely SBI Cards & Payment Services and GE Capital Business Process Management Services.

* Bank of India is seeking fresh bids for its stake in nonbanking finance company STCI Finance, as bids in the previous round did not meet the lender's expectation, Business Standard reported. The bank currently holds a 29.96% stake, or 11.38 million shares, in STCI Finance.

* A report from Bangladesh Bank showed that AB Bank Ltd. allegedly laundered about 1.65 billion taka into an account at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC through two fictional organizations under the guise of investment, The Daily Star reported, citing a copy obtained by the publication from the country's Anti-Corruption Commission.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. will repurchase up to A$1.5 billion of shares on-market after completing the sale of its 20% stake in Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank Co. Ltd. Two Chinese investors will each buy a 10% stake in the lender for a total price of 9.19 billion yuan, or US$1.32 billion.

* Chinese private equity firm Fosun is said to have joined the race to buy Suncorp Group Ltd.'s A$1.5 billion life insurance operations, The Australian reported. Investment bank Citi is reportedly working for Fosun on the latter's bid.

* Australia's New Payments Platform, or NPP, is set to arrive in February 2018, which will allow customers to make real-time payments between banks, news.com.au reported. Adrian Lovney, CEO of NPP, said the transition to a faster payments platform is long overdue in the country.

* National Australia Bank Ltd. CEO Andrew Thorburn said the lender is meeting all its obligations with the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, The Australian reported. Thorburn, however, declined to specify when the bank identified its "weaknesses" in its processes, which were noted in the lender's annual report released in mid-November.

R Sio, Sally Wang, Sarun Saelee, Cathy Hwang, Emi White and Aditya Suharmoko contributed to this report.

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