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LENDING & CREDIT | Tony Chua, India
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HSBC mulls boosting India unsecured loan retail unit

The lender keen to execute the plan in a cautious and calibrated way despite plunge in profit.

HSBC is looking to grow its unsecured Indian loan portfolio, mainly credit cards, its country chief executive said, as its retail operation moves towards a return to profitability in Asia's third-largest economy.

Banks in India slashed unsecured lending after personal loans and credit card dues turned bad following the global financial crisis. HSBC India saw a 46 percent drop in overall profit for the first half of 2009 as losses on retail lending more than doubled.

"At this stage, we are well positioned to grow our unsecured book, but we will do it in a cautious and calibrated way," Stuart Davis, who took over as India chief executive in April 2009, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

"We won't be looking at open market sourcing as we did perhaps four or five years ago," he said, referring to the practice of issuing cards to customers who do not already have an account with the bank.

HSBC's expansion of unsecured lending in India comes as it is turning around the performance of its retail banking operations in the country, the sixth biggest contributor to the UK-based bank's group profit.

In the first half of 2011, HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, posted a loss of $4 million in its India retail banking and wealth management business, narrowing from a loss of $49 million a year ago.

View the full story in Reuters.

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