* U.S. card business does not make strategic sense - CEO
* U.S. card portfolio totals $33 billion
* Indonesia a "priority" country, target for investment
By Neil Chatterjee
JAKARTA, June 13 HSBC (HSBA.L) will wind down
its $33 billion U.S. credit card business if it cannot find a
buyer, the bank's chief executive said on Monday.
CEO Stuart Gulliver said he was upbeat in the medium term
on the U.S. economy but that the card business there did not
make strategic sense.
"If we can't find a buyer we will put it into rundown,"
Gulliver told reporters on the sidelines of a World Economic
Forum event in Jakarta. He said the review of the card business
Europe's largest bank said last month it plans to slash up
to $3.5 billion in costs and cut back in retail banking as part
of a global bid to lift its profitability.
Selling its U.S. credit card arm will be an uphill battle
for HSBC, which saddled itself with riskier assets during its
ill-fated expansion into U.S. consumer lending.
The $33 billion card portfolio is too large to be easily
sold off, especially since HSBC said last month it is not
willing to sell for just any price.
Barclays (BARC.L) and Capital One Financial Corp (COF.N)
are seen as the likeliest buyers for at least some of the card
assets, according to several industry members, but it is
unlikely they would buy the whole portfolio.
After the financial crisis, few buyers can afford such
large credit card portfolios, and increasing regulation of the
credit card industry has made it harder for lenders to turn a
Gulliver, who took over HSBC at the beginning of the year,
plans to put more focus on emerging markets such as Indonesia,
which he said on Monday was "one of our priority countries" and
a target for investment.
"The cost of re-engineering has to come from other parts of
the world, and from being smarter," Gulliver added.
The U.S. credit card business is profitable, but it lends
largely to riskier customers, unlike the rest of HSBC's
businesses. That makes it harder for the bank to cross-sell
other products to its U.S. borrowers, unlike in retail banking
markets in the UK, Hong Kong and emerging markets such as
HSBC is already in the process of winding down its U.S.
consumer loan business over several years.
As part of last month's review, Gulliver said he would look
at selling, closing or trimming retail operations in 39 markets
where it is sub-scale or unprofitable.
HSBC's London-listed shares were up 0.9 percent at 619.5
pence at 1132 GMT, outperforming a 0.6 percent rise in the
European bank index.
(Additional reporting by Maria Aspan in New York; Editing by
Lincoln Feast, Will Waterman and John Wallace)