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Rpt finance and tech heavyweights join forces as blockchain initiative gro

(Repeats story published late Thursday; no changes to text)LONDON Dec 17 Big names from the worlds of finance and technology such as Deutsche Boerse, JP Morgan, Cisco and IBM have come together to work on an open-source framework for using the "blockchain" technology that underpins the web-based cryptocurrency bitcoin. The new technology works as a huge, decentralised ledger of every bitcoin transaction ever made, which is verified and shared by a global network of computers and is therefore virtually tamper-proof. It has been drawing investment from banks and other financial players, who reckon it could save them money by making their operations faster, more efficient and more transparent. The data that can be secured by the blockchain is not restricted to bitcoin transactions. Any two parties could use it to exchange other information, including stock deals, legal contracts and property records, within minutes and with no need for a central authority to verify it.

The new project will be run by the not-for-profit Linux Foundation, and will focus on building industry-specific applications, platforms and hardware systems to support business transactions. The initiative will include Digital Asset Holdings, the blockchain start-up run by former JP Morgan executive Blythe Masters, who has become something of an ambassador for the nascent technology. The initiative will also work with the blockchain consortium of banks run by financial technology firm R3, which on Thursday said it had added another 12 banks, including Santander and Nomura, and would soon include some of the world's biggest fund managers.

The Bank for International Settlements, the central bank for central bankers, said in a report last month that blockchain technology could reduce the role of intermediaries such as banks or other financial players. But a senior executive at German exchange operator Deutsche Boerse, one member of the new Linux initiative, told Reuters in a recent interview that it does not see itself being made irrelevant by the new technology.

Deutsche Boerse is actively involved in discussions with several fintech firms and financial institutions that are developing distributed ledger technology, said Ashwin Kumar, who took up his role as global product development head at Deutsche Boerse on Sept. 1."The blockchain technology won't make market infrastructure providers obsolete," he said. "

Rpt fitch affirms peoples merchant finance at bb+(lka)

(Repeat for additional subscribers)June 27 (The following statement was released by the rating agency)Fitch Ratings Lanka has affirmed People's Merchant Finance PLC 's (PMF) National Long-Term rating at 'BB+lka'. The Outlook is Stable. KEY RATING DRIVERS - NATIONAL RATINGS AND SENIOR DEBT

PMF's rating reflects Fitch's expectation that support would be forthcoming from its main shareholder, state-owned People's Bank (PB; 'AA+(lka)'/Stable), if required. PB has a 36% effective shareholding in PMF, directly and via PB's subsidiary People's Leasing & Finance PLC ('AA-(lka)'/Stable). Fitch's view of support is also based on PMF's association with, and consequent reputational risk to, PB's franchise given the common brand identity, PB's representation on PMF's board and support demonstrated by PB in the form of borrowings and equity injections. Nevertheless, there is a multiple notch differential between PMF's and PB's ratings, taking into account PMF's relatively less important role in and lower integration with the group's overall operations.

RATING SENSITIVITIES- NATIONAL RATINGS AND SENIOR DEBT PMF's rating may be downgraded if there is any change to PB's ability or propensity to extend support. This may stem from a change to PB's National Long-Term Rating or a material weakening of linkages with PB, such as a dilution of PB's effective shareholding or board control.

PMF's standalone profile is very weak and characterised by continuing operating losses, deteriorating asset quality, and a thin loss-absorption capacity. The company made a pre- impairment operating loss of LKR6.7m in FY14 as a result of lower net interest margins and high operating costs. PMF also incurred significant loan impairment charges of 3% of average loans in FY14. This stemmed from a further weakening of PMF's asset quality along with a challenging macroeconomic environment, which has affected its largely subprime customer base. Fitch believes that PMF's loan book could face further asset quality stress unless risk management is strengthened. PMF's funding is predominantly from term deposits, which, although improving, remains concentrated. Fitch expects liquidity support from PB to be forthcoming if required. Fitch believes that PMF is likely to be merged or acquired as a part of the Government of Sri Lanka's 'Master Plan' to consolidate the financial system.