--RBS to pull out from Hong Kong interbank rate-setting panel
--RBS also decides not to submit reference rates for offshore yuan interbank lending market, a source says
--Bank already pulled out from Singapore, Japan amid global regulatory scrutiny after Libor scandal.
(Adds the Hong Kong Monetary Authority's comment in 5th paragraph)
By Fiona Law
HONG KONG--The Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS.LN) plans to stop submitting reference rates to the Hong Kong-dollar interbank lending panel, following its decision to withdraw from interbank rate-setting mechanisms in Singapore and Japan, people familiar with the situation said Thursday.
The U.K.-based lender also won't submit data for an upcoming offshore yuan interbank lending rate-setting mechanism, which will likely serve as a benchmark for funding costs between banks as early as the end of this year, the people said. This is despite increasing efforts by RBS to invest in the offshore yuan business, one of the fastest-growing markets in recent years.
In April, RBS sent a letter to the Hong Kong Association of Banks, the provider of Hong Kong interbank offered rates, or Hibor, asking to withdraw from the panel, the people said. The move will likely become effective later this year, one person said.
An RBS spokeswoman said the bank has decided to stop contributing to a number of such panels and to focus only on a few markets, "as part of the bank's effort to optimize its markets businesses," following a plan in January to review its priorities amid an evolving regulatory environment and deteriorating market conditions.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said it is aware that RBS has asked to withdraw from submitting data for Hibor fixing. The panel of reference banks is now under review, it told Dow Jones Newswires in an email responding to questions.
The Hibor is fixed at 11 a.m. local time each business day, based on quotations from 20 banks designated by the Hong Kong Association of Banks.
Under increased global regulatory scrutiny due to recent allegations of banks' collusion in interbank rate-fixing, RBS, which is 82% owned by the U.K. government, decided to pull out as a contributing bank because "there's unlimited downside to the bank's liability," one of the people said.
The person said the only "upside" to being a contributing bank was a reputation boost, "because only prime banks are qualified to submit reference rates for Hibor fixing."
On Monday, RBS said it stopped submitting data to Singapore's interbank lending panel. That followed its decision early this month to quit contributing to the Tokyo Interbank Offered Rate panel.
Regulators in countries including the U.S. and Japan are investigating various financial institutions over the alleged manipulation of key benchmark interbank rates, notably the Libor. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said Wednesday the Hong Kong Association of Banks would review the mechanism for fixing the Hibor.
In Hong Kong, another banking association, the Treasury Markets Association, has stepped up efforts to launch a benchmark rate for offshore yuan lending by the end of 2012, in a bid to help the development of products and loans offered in yuan.
It plans to expand the number of contributing banks to 15 in August from eight currently, and has invited lenders who are actively involved in the offshore yuan business to participate in the submission of data.
But RBS, which is one of most active dim sum bond underwriters, has in recent months dropped its plan to join that panel, a person familiar with the matter said.
According to data provider Dealogic, the lender ranks No.7 in underwriting offshore yuan-denominated bonds, or dim sum bonds. It sold a total of $228 million of such paper so far this year.
Write to Fiona Law at firstname.lastname@example.org
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 19, 2012 08:33 ET (12:33 GMT)
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