BRANCH BANKING | Tony Chua, Korea

HSBC targets selling all Korean branches

The move is part of lender’s worldwide restructuring plan which includes sale of its U.S. credit card and retail services.

HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) plans to sell its retail banking operations in South Korea as part of the company’s worldwide restructuring, MoneyToday reported, citing people it didn’t identify.

The London-based lender aims to sell its entire 11 branches in South Korea, leaving only investment and corporate banking businesses in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy, the Korean-language internet newswire reported on Thursday, without saying how much the assets may be worth. Jessica Lennon, a spokeswoman for HSBC in Hong Kong, declined to comment on the report by phone.

HSBC, which plans to eliminate 30,000 jobs by the end of 2013, said last month that it is in talks to sell its U.S. credit card and retail services. Foreign financial firms operating in South Korea have faced setbacks recently, with Standard Chartered Plc (STAN)’s local unit closing branches following a worker strike, and Lone Star Funds’ planned sale of Korea Exchange Bank postponed because of legal action.

HSBC’s South Korean business posted net income of 293.5 billion won ($245 million) last year, with 24.4 trillion won in consolidated assets, according to data on its website. It employed about 840 staff in Korea as of Dec. 31, the data show.

The British bank abandoned a $6 billion deal in 2008 to buy Korea Exchange Bank from Dallas-based Lone Star after failing to persuade the U.S. fund to cut the price while regulators held the deal in limbo, citing legal disputes involving Lone Star.

The same legal issues are now holding up Lone Star’s attempt to sell KEB to Hana Financial Group Inc. Regulators have delayed approval of the transaction until the end of a court case against Lone Star and its former local unit head on stock manipulation charges. Lone Star has denied wrongdoing.

View the full story in Bloomberg.

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