* Caixa Seguridade Participações SA expects to conclude joint ventures in its four business areas by June in preparation for its initial public offering, Reuters reported, citing the head of investor relations, Thiago Souza Silva.
* Brazil's Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles will have to decide by next week his presidential bid, but said "we have to see what people want and consider electoral factors to avoid a negative result for the country," Reuters reported him as saying. However, aides close to President Michel Temer said Meirelles has already decided to step down from his Cabinet post to run for president under the Brazilian Democratic Movement or be Temer's running mate, should the president run for re-election.
MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA
* Twenty-three financial institutions in Mexico posted total profits of 158.20 billion Mexican pesos in 2017, up 27.5% from a year ago, the country's banking regulator said. Combined income from intermediation was up 50.9% to reach 48.5 billion pesos. The companies' total loan portfolio reached 4.38 trillion pesos, up 9.0% year over year, with Grupo Financiero BBVA Bancomer SA de CV, Grupo Financiero Banamex SA de CV, Grupo Financiero Banorte SAB de CV and Grupo Financiero Santander Mexico SAB de CV accounting for 68.4% of total loans.
* Moises Kalach, who represents Mexico's private sector in the NAFTA talks, said there were "positive signs" for a new deal for the trade deal, after the U.S. withdrew their demand on automobile production, Reuters reported. Kalach noted that leaders are still waiting on whether the U.S. will withdraw other contentious issues.
* China Development Bank is interested in financing shipping projects in Panama, El Capital Financiero reported, following a meeting between government officials and the bank's director, Ping Yan. The bank plans to establish a headquarters in Panama.
* Fitch Ratings raised the long-term national risk rating of Banco Múltiple López de Haro SA to BBB(dom) from BBB- (dom) with a stable outlook, while affirming the national short-term rating of F3(dom), citing sustained improvements in profitability and capitalization levels at the bank.
* Shareholders of Banco do Nordeste do Brasil SA approved a payment of interest on its own capital tied to 2017 profits worth about 94.0 million reais, or about 1.10 reais per share.
* An appellate court in Brazil rejected the defense of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Reuters reported. The nation's Supreme Court will review the case April 4 and will decide whether to allow him to exhaust all appeals before he is finally imprisoned.
* Global banks operating in Brazil are rehiring talent, buoyed by slight recovery in M&A activity and stock and bond offerings amid lower interest rates, Reuters reported. Citigroup Inc.'s Brazilian unit hired Eduardo Miras, formerly of Morgan Stanley, late in 2017, and shortly after, Morgan Stanley hired Felipe Mattar, formerly of Citigroup. Banco Santander (Brasil) SA's former head of investment banking, Flavio Valadao, will assume a vice-chairmanship position at JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s Brazilian operations in April.
* Brazil's central bank has imposed a limit on the tariffs that debit card-issuing banks can charge shopkeepers in a move aimed at increasing their use, Valor Econômico reported. From October 2018, banks will be able to charge a maximum of 0.8% per transaction and 0.5% on average. At the moment, there is no limit but the average charge is at 0.82%. The regulator also expects the country's credit market to expand by 3.5% this year, Reuters reported, citing the head of the statistics department, Fernando Rocha. The bank raised its previous estimate for 3.0% growth due to a bigger-than-expected expansion of free credit.
* Brazil's central bank opened public consultations on proposed reforms to the structure and governance of the country's payment processing market, Diário Comércio Indústria & Serviços reported. Proposals include steps to ensure greater transparency in the operating rules of different payment systems.
* Brazilian banks have increased the cost of borrowing for companies and families despite the Selic benchmark rate's record low, Valor Econômico reported. The average rate for individuals was 57.7% per year in February, up from 55.8% in January.
* Peru's central bank is not expected to continue cutting its benchmark interest rate, El Comercio reported, citing research from Brazil's Itaú BBA. The investment bank said current monetary policy is already expansive, and noted a shift in language in statements that pointed to a "neutral" rate.
* Banco de Comercio Exterior de Colombia SA – BANCÓLDEX has launched a credit line for companies that have suffered as a result of decades of armed conflict, La República reported, citing the bank's president, Mario Suarez Melo. Loans may be used for working capital and the purchase of capital goods, among others.
* Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and Argentina's Banco de Galicia y Buenos Aires SA signed a memorandum of understanding, in which Sumitomo will attract Japanese companies to the Argentine market, while Galicia will provide information and financial support in the local currency. The banks will also collaborate on project finance, trade finance and other financial services.
* Argentina's main banking union, La Bancaria, will hold a series of meetings this week that may affect services at branches following the failure of the latest round of pay talks, Clarín reported. The union will also decide whether to call a strike in the days after Easter.
* Persistent double-digit inflation in Argentina means that some mortgage borrowers with two-year-old UVA inflation-adjusted loans will end up paying almost the same monthly installment as those who took out a traditional credit, La Nación reported, quoting a study by a local financial analyst.
* Starting May, private Argentine banks will charge companies that deposit 50,000 Argentine pesos or more per month between 0.6% and 1%, El Cronista reported. The publication reported that banks had excess cash stocks in the provinces that the central bank's regional treasuries were unable to take. It said state-owned banks would not be imposing charges on cash deposits for the meantime.
* Argentina could join China-based development bank Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank before the end of the year, El Cronista reported. It said the country must first pass a law and then contribute capital before becoming a full member eligible for financing.
* Chile's ABIF banking industry association responded to criticism from two cryptocurrency trading sites over account closures by local banks, saying it was not the body's role to formulate a common policy on such issues, Pulso reported. Some cryptocurrency trading platforms are considering lodging a complaint before the competition watchdog.
* Lázaro Calderón, CEO of Chilean retailer Ripley Corp. SA, told Diario Financiero in an interview that the outlook for the country's banking sector, including that of Banco Ripley, is positive this year. He said the retail bank had ended 2017 on an optimistic note, with its return on equity at 18%, the fourth-highest among local lenders, and more than 2.57 million customers.
* Asia-Pacific: Goldman Sachs in Indian M&A talks; Australian wealth manager files for IPO
* Middle East & Africa: Abraaj mulls unit stake sale; Hapoalim Q4'17 profit up; Bank of Ghana cuts rate
* Europe: Commerzbank predicts fall in revenue; Deutsche Bank looks to replace CEO
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Helen Popper contributed to this article.
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