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Daily Dispatches – savvy Singapore is second

Singapore’s Business Times reports that the Lion City has advanced in the latest MasterCard Index of Financial Literacy, coming in second only to New Zealand among the 16 Asia-Pacific markets polled. With a score of 74 index points, the Kiwis moved up to first place, from two last year, pipping Singapore (72 points) which is up from fifth to second place.

The bottom three in the region consisted of Indonesia (60 points), which dropped seven places to 14th, as well as India (59 points) and Japan (57 points). Consumers from the developing markets of Thailand, Philippines and China showed the most significant progress in the region.

The index was based on a survey of 7,756 respondents aged 18 to 64 between April and May this year. It polled consumers on three aspects of financial literacy: basic money management skills, investment knowledge and financial planning.

Another ING deal in Korea

Bloomberg reports that ING Groep NV is in exclusive talks to sell its Korean life-insurance operations to private-equity fund MBK Partners, citing a Wall Street Journal article, which said MBK had offered USD$1.6bn for ING’s life business in Korea.

This speculated deal follows less than month after ING sold  its South Korean investment-management business to Macquarie.

Abe’s boost to foreign banks

Bloomberg reports that Bank of America led a fivefold increase in profit by the Japan branches of foreign banks’ securities businesses in the past fiscal year. This was fuelled by accelerated job cuts, and increased fees and commissions during the country’s stock-market rebound.

Combined net income at the Japanese units of 10 global banks rose to 32.8 billion yen (USD$332 million) for the year ended March 31 from 5.7 billion yen a year earlier, according to regulatory filings obtained by Bloomberg News. The banks eliminated about 1,000 Japan jobs in total over the period.

“The business environment is still active, and bankers are getting busier because their firms have reduced headcount,” said Katsunobu Komizo, president at Executive Search Partners Co., Japan’s biggest recruiter focusing on banks. “Foreign firms can make the most of their global presence for equity underwriting and advising on cross-border acquisitions. There’s more room for growth.”

Temasek, CITIC buy Asiainfo

Reuters reports that a consortium comprising China’s CITIC Capital and Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings has agreed to buy Asiainfo for about USD$900 million, joining a growing number of buyouts of US-listed Chinese companies.

CIMB nabs top honours

The Sun Daily reports that Malaysia’s CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd has been named the Global Islamic Bank of the Year and the Asia-Pacific Islamic Bank of the Year by banking publication The Banker. The two awards were in recognition of the bank’s strong management, sound business model and prudent risk approach.

According to The Banker, Islamic banks worldwide continue to post impressive figures, and CIMB Islamic Bank in particular enjoyed a record year in 2012 despite ongoing global financial turmoil and increased competition in the bank’s key markets.

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