HSBC in talks to sell 4 more LatAm businesses

HONG KONG/LONDON Thu May 10, 2012 4:54am EDT

Tourists pass an HSBC bank in central London, May 8, 2012. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Tourists pass an HSBC bank in central London, May 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris

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HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters) - HSBC plc (HSBA.L) is in talks to sell its operations in Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay, as Europe's biggest bank continues to retreat from countries where it is too small or it does not see strong enough growth.

HSBC has been quitting smaller markets and businesses to cut costs and streamline operations under new CEO Stuart Gulliver.

The London-based bank operates in 85 countries and Gulliver is trying to sharpen its focus on fast-growing Asian markets. It has struck about 27 deals in the past year to cut more than $60 billion in risk-weighted assets from its balance sheet.

HSBC has 62 branches in the four Latin American countries it is leaving - 24 in Peru, 20 in Colombia, 11 in Uruguay and seven in Paraguay - out of more than 3,000 across the Americas. The businesses had assets of about $4.5 billion.

It did not say who it was talking to or specify whether it was one firm or several.

HSBC sold its businesses in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras for $800 million to Colombia's Banco Davivienda S.A. DVIp.CN in January. Those businesses had 136 branches and assets of about $4.3 billion. It also sold its retail banking operations in Chile last year.

HSBC's Latin American operations made an underlying pretax profit of $2.2 billion last year, up 21 percent, although bad debts have been rising there and its costs in the region are high and well above Gulliver's target.

The bank this week said first-quarter earnings hit $6.8 billion, beating expectations thanks to a rebound in investment banking, growth in Asia and a fall in U.S. bad debts.

Gulliver is due to update investors on the first year of his strategic overhaul next week.

Shares in HSBC were up 0.2 percent to 552 pence at 04:50 a.m. EDT (0850 GMT).

(Reporting by Denny Thomas in Hong Kong and Steve Slater in London; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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