HSBC France to leave its Champs Elysees headquarters

PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) - HSBC HSBA.L France said on Wednesday its teams will leave a prestigious headquarters on Paris' Champs Elysees avenue by 2020 in an emblematic move ahead of the planned sale of its retail business in the country.

FILE PHOTO: The HSBC bank logo is pictured at the bank headquarters in Paris April 9, 2015. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

The exit and planned sale, following a strategic review of the group’s French retail activities, are part of a broader cost-cutting effort under interim Chief Executive Noel Quinn.

“HSBC France has a project of moving its headquarters by 2020 to 38 av Kleber, 500 meters away from its actual headquarters that was sold in 2010,” the bank said in a statement.

The building would be fit for 1,200 employees working mostly in corporate and investment banking and wealth management.

Another 500 employees will be moved to HSBC’s hub in La Defense business district which now houses 4,000 of the bank’s employees and to branches close to the Champs Elysees building.

HSBC France sold its headquarters at 103 avenue Champs Elysees, and a building in front of it at 15 rue Vernet, to Qatari investors and has rented them since then.

The move is necessitated because the owner wants to regain control of the buildings and also because HSBC needs to save money, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Office rents in Paris are rising to levels not seen since at least 2003, according to Immostat data, as vacancy rates are at record lows.

HSBC inherited the historic headquarters when it bought the French retail operations of Crédit Commercial de France (CCF) in 2000.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the building was a hotel where World War One spy and exotic dancer Mata Hari was arrested.

HSBC Holdings has hired U.S. investment bank Lazard Ltd LAZ.N to sell its French retail business, a source close to the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

Quinn is expected to unveil the first details of his strategic overhaul of the bank when it reports third-quarter earnings on Oct. 28.

Quinn is auditioning for the full-time CEO job and insiders said he is under pressure to take decisive action after Chairman Mark Tucker indicated his predecessor John Flint had not moved quickly enough to turn around the lender’s performance.

Reuters first reported news of HSBC’s planned exit earlier on Wednesday, citing sources.

Reporting by Maya Nikolaeva in Paris and Clara Denina and Lawrence White in London; Editing by Mark Potter and Matthew Lewis