LONDON/HONG KONG HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) (0005.HK), Europe's biggest bank, said it was in talks over the possible sale of its Korean retail banking and wealth management business to Korea Development Bank (KDB), as HSBC continues to divest non-core assets around the world.
HSBC, which gave no indication of the possible price for the deal, added it remained committed to the Korean market, where it would maintain its investment in its investment banking and corporate banking businesses in that country.
HSBC has embarked upon a widespread asset-sale program over the last year, as part of Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver's plans to cut annual costs by $3.5 billion, sharpen its focus on fast-growing Asian markets and boost its overall profitability.
According to the HSBC Korea website, HSBC has 11 branches in Korea and total assets of some 30,020 billion Korean won ($26.4 billion) as of June 2011.
Earlier this year, HSBC sold its general insurance businesses to French insurer AXA (AXAF.PA) and Australia's QBE Insurance Group (QBE.AX) for $914 million in cash, and the company is also considering selling some Mauritius units.
The British bank last month sold its majority stake in its Middle Eastern private equity arm, announced plans to quit Slovakia and in January disposed of its banking operations in Costa Rica, El Savador and Honduras for around $800 million.
Gulliver's restructuring also involves HSBC planning to cut 11,000 jobs.
HSBC shares dipped 0.8 percent in early trade in London, in line with a similar fall in Britain's benchmark FTSE 100 index .FTSE.
($1 = 1138.3000 Korean won)
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Kelvin Soh; Editing by David Holmes)