TOP NEWS OF THE WEEK

China’s top anti-corruption agency is investigating the chair of China Life Insurance on suspicion of “serious violations of discipline and law”, the China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a statement Saturday, without disclosing more details.

Wang Bin, chairman of one of the country’s largest life insurers, is currently undergoing disciplinary review and investigation, becoming the most senior financial executive in China’s anti-corruption move launched in October last year.

China Life shares dropped 1.3% in Monday trading. In different statements, China Life said it will fully cooperate with the investigation, and its operation and management remain normal. The life insurer will hold a board meeting soon to decide on an acting chairman and disclose in due course.

Source: China Life Insurance; China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection

The National Pension Service (NPS) and state-run financial institutions were found to have remained passive about efforts to prevent climate change throughout last year, compared to private-sector financial companies, according to a domestic non-profit organisation's study released on January 4.

The Solutions for Our Climate's (SFOC) analysis of the 100 largest financial institutions in Korea found that none of the nation's 14 public financial firms promised to achieve net-zero emissions in their asset portfolios by 2050, nor devised any specific plans for reducing carbon emissions.

Source: Korea Times

NTUC Income announced its plan to corporatise, which would entail transferring its insurance business and assets to a new company, as it seeks a fresh injection of capital from institutions.

The new company will be called Income Insurance and is expected to be completed in the second half of the year.

Corporatisation will allow the company to open up avenues to raise capital since its current form as a cooperative caps its share price at S$10 per share and dividends at 10% of share capital.

Source: Business Times

Southeast Asian used-car online marketplace, Carsome Group has reportedly raised almost $300 million in a financing round led by funds linked to Temasek Holdings Pte and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, according to Bloomberg.

People with knowledge of the matter who wished to remain anonymous have said that 65 Equity Partners and SeaTown Holdings -- both backed by Singapore state investment firm Temasek -- and Qatar Investment Authority are among investors that participated in the fundraising by Carsome.

Carsome is Malaysia’s most valuable technology startup and is planning to go public in the U.S. later this year, according to the report.

Carsome started gauging investor interest in November and was seeking to raise about $200 million, Bloomberg News reported at the time. In a September statement, the startup announce it had received $170 million in a series D2 round at a $1.3 billion valuation.

Source: Bloomberg

Government Pension Investment Fund has issued a request for proposals to provide qualitative assessment reports on investment strategies from April 2022 to March 2025, the world’s largest pension fund said on Jan 4.

The submission deadline is Feb 2 and GPIF has held an online briefing on Jan 7.

Source: GPIF

 

MORE INVESTMENT NEWS:

AUSTRALIA

Changes introduced by reforms by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (Apra) are intensifying pressure for the superannuation industry to become more consolidated.

The sector is being driven towards a structure of three to five megafunds after a record 15 mergers in the 12 months to October 2021.

Last year, AsianInvestor reported the industry will soon comprise a few A$200 billion megafunds and a few smaller, niche funds.

Source: Financial Times, AsianInvestor

CHINA

China’s insurance regulator has given HSBC Holdings the green light to buy out its insurance joint venture partner, paving the way for the banking group to expand its wealth management business on the mainland.

HSBC is buying the 50% stake in HSBC Life China from financial services firm National Trust for an undisclosed sum, nearly two years after striking the deal soon after Beijing dropped foreign ownership limits in insurance companies.

The London-based bank had $2.96 trillion of assets globally as of September 2021.

Source: Asia Asset Management

Deutsche Bank aims to set up the joint-venture with the wealth management unit of Postal Savings Bank of China, according to Caixin, which cited people familiar with the matter.

The sources said that discussions are still underway with no agreement. Deutsche Bank declined to comment. 

If the plans materialise, Deutsche Bank would be the fifth overseas firm to form a wealth management partnership with a Chinese bank in order to gain access to mainland China’s wealthy investors.

Source: Caixin Global

HSBC became the first global custodian bank to execute a Qualified Foreign Investor (QFI) trade on China’s third and newest bourse: Beijing Stock Exchange.

The UK lender says it facilitated trading of the Samsung RMB Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII) trust on the two-month-old Beijing Stock Exchange for South Korean broker dealer Samsung Securities Co. It did not say when the trade was executed.

The QFI scheme allows foreign institutional investors to invest in China’s capital markets, and to invest renminbi raised offshore in onshore assets.

The Chinese government opened the Beijing Stock Exchange on November 15 to help small and medium-sized enterprises to raise financing. China’s two other more established bourses are in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

HSBC says it now provides QFI custody services to 248 international institutions, or 37.4% of the 663 QFI licence holders in China.

Source: Asia Asset Management

HONG KONG

The 400 investment funds under Hong Kong’s HK$1.2 trillion (US$153.8 billion) Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) last year recorded a 0.64% gain, its worst performance in three years.

In 2019 and 2020, the funds posted 12.7% and 12.2% gains respectively, and reported an 8.2% loss in 2018.

MPF members earned an average of HK$1,706 in 2021, compared with 2020’s HK$30,000.

China and Hong Kong equity funds represent a third of all MPF assets, and reported their worst losses in 10 years.

Source: SCMP

JAPAN

Nippon Life Insurance will urge foreign companies it invests in to cut carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050, while already asking domestic firms to do so, President Hiroshi Shimizu said.

Nippon Life, which holds about 10 trillion yen ($86 billion) worth of equities and corporate bonds in Japan, will draw up an interim target for 2030 in the near future to achieve a decarbonised society and request investees to take measures to cut carbon emissions, Shimizu said.

Source: Kyodo News

KOREA

National Pension Service returned 7.6% in the 10 months ended October, while the total assets under management have reached 917.8 trillion won ($764.3 billion), the world’s third-largest pension fund released in end-2021.

By asset class, overseas stocks returned 27%, domestic stocks gained 5.3%, alternative assets returned 10%, foreign bonds gained 5.8%, while domestic bonds recorded a 3% loss.

Most of the returns on alternative investment are interest or dividend income, and foreign exchange gains due to a weakened Korean won. As fair value evaluation is conducted once a year by the end of the year, the alternative asset performance so far does not reflect the fair value, NPS said.

Source: NPS

MALAYSIA

Malaysia’s central bank has issued a discussion paper outlining the proposed framework for licensing new digital insurers. Bank Negara Malaysia is looking for feedback on the paper as it seeks to draw new digital players into the sector and encourage innovation in both conventional and Islamic or takaful insurance.

The move also complements its digital banking initiative and efforts to digitalise the financial sector, the central bank said in an official statement on January 4.

The two-month discussion period ends on February 28, and the central bank then plans to publish an exposure draft followed by a policy document on prudential and business conduct requirements for digital insurance operators in 2022.

The central bank said that licence applications will be opened at a “later date”, but have not yet provided a timeline.

Source: Bank Negara Malaysia

SINGAPORE

Social Capital Suvretta Holdings Corp I, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) led by Chamath Palihapitiya, is allegedly negotiating a merger with Akili Interactive, a startup backed by Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek that specialises in technology-based cognitive therapies.

A person with knowledge of the matter told the Business Times that a transaction that values the combined entity at more than US$800 million is being discussed by the parties involved.

Source: The Business Times

A pair of descendants from two of Singapore’s wealthiest families are teaming up to create a private NFT-based social networking app.

Kiat Lim, the 28-year-old son of reclusive financier Peter Lim, and Elroy Cheo, of the family behind edible oil business Mewah International Inc., have founded ARC to create the exclusive community.

The pair aim to create an online club where membership is open to anyone holding the startup’s non-fungible tokens, from entrepreneurs to social media influencers.

Lim and Cheo say they have been quietly working on their startup since before the Covid-19 pandemic began, prioritizing referrals for membership similar to traditional clubs. The app is currently limited to iPhones though an Android version is in the testing phase.

Source: Bloomberg

THAILAND

Financial experts in Thailand are warning that the country’s Social Security Fund's (SSF) pension scheme — which was designed to provide a source of income for those who have retired from the private sector — may not last unless changes are made to strengthen its finances.

Concerns about the SSF's sustainability are being echoed by academics and labour advocates following the actions of Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin last month who halted a proposal to start paying out pension benefits at the age of 60 as opposed to 55.

The proposal, submitted by the Social Security Office (SSO), is part of draft amendments to the Social Security Act which aims to increase the benefits for its 10 million subscribers. The proposal requires cabinet approval before it can be forwarded to Thailand’s House of Representatives for further scrutiny.

Source: Bangkok Post