DUBAI, April 21 HSBC Holdings is
reviewing its operations in Iraq while continuing to invest in
Egypt despite a challenging near-term environment there, the
bank's regional chief executive said on Sunday.
"In terms of Iraq, it's a market that we will continue to
review," Simon Cooper, chief executive for the Middle East and
North Africa, told reporters at a media event in Dubai.
He did not elaborate and declined to comment when asked for
HSBC operates in Iraq through a 70 percent holding in Dar Es
Salaam Investment Bank.
The lender's presence in Iraq has been the subject of
speculation in recent months.
It had been due to be a bookrunner on a $1.35 billion
initial share sale of telecom firm Asiacell but its
name was absence from the deal when it took place in January.
Iraq's security and political situation has put off many
international banks, although some Middle Eastern lenders have
operations there, including Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and
Qatar National Bank.
Its banking sector is also dominated by two state-owned
lenders - Rafidian and Rashid.
BUMPS IN THE ROAD
HSBC is in the last year of a three-year restructuring plan
under Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver. It has closed or sold 47
businesses and cut 38,000 jobs around the world in an attempt to
reduce costs and improve profitability.
Cooper said that Egypt was experiencing a number of "bumps
in the road" as it transitioned to democracy but that the bank
was continuing to invest in the country, pointing to a couple of
branch openings in the first quarter of 2013.
Egypt's central bank introduced foreign exchange auctions at
the end of December as part of efforts to stave off a currency
crisis triggered by a run on the pound, which has lost around a
tenth of its value this year.
Meanwhile, 12 days of talks between the IMF and the
government ended last week without an agreement on a
much-delayed $4.8 billion loan needed to ease a deepening
Cooper said the bank had no plans to begin operations in
Morocco or Tunisia in the short or medium term, while its Libya
business would remain at a representative office level for the
The bank's regional priorities remain Saudi Arabia, the
United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman because of favourable
economic conditions and high levels of planned infrastructure
spending, Cooper said.
(Reporting by David French; editing by Jason Neely)