HSBC eyes Korea, Pakistan sales in global retreat

LONDON/HONG KONG Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:04am BST

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LONDON/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Europe's biggest bank, HSBC (HSBA.L) (0005.HK), is in talks to sell up in Pakistan and offload retail banking in Korea, part of its withdrawal from countries where it lacks scale or struggles to make a profit.

HSBC said it was discussing the sale of its Korean retail and wealth management business to Korea Development Bank (KDB), but would keep its investment banking and corporate banking businesses in the country.

It is also in talks with several unnamed companies to sell its Pakistan business, it said in a separate statement.

HSBC did not give a price for either deal, but both are modest in size. It has 11 branches in Korea and assets of about 30,000 billion Korean won, and 10 branches in Pakistan.

If completed, the deals would take the number carried out by HSBC Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver since taking over early last year to 25, as he tries to revive his bank by cutting costs and boosting profitability. Deals already struck will cut $50 billion (31 billion pounds) in risk-weighted assets from its balance sheet since early 2011.

The London-based bank operates in 85 countries and Gulliver is trying to sharpen its focus on fast-growing Asian markets, while businesses that lack scale in Asia could also be on the block.

It made a $22 billion (13 billion pounds) profit last year, the largest by a western bank, but costs continue to rise and its return on equity was 10.9 percent, short of its 12-15 percent target.

HSBC has this year sold its general insurance businesses for $914 million (577 million pounds), sold operations in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras for around $800 million (505 million pounds), and said it would quit Slovakia. It is also considering selling some Mauritius units.

HSBC shares dipped 1.2 percent to 548 pence by 0920 GMT, holding firmer than a 2 percent fall by Europe's bank sector .SX7P.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Steve Slater in London and Kelvin Soh in Hong Kong; Editing by David Holmes and Helen Massy-Beresford)

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