HSBC eyes sale of multibillion-dollar Canadian business

HSBC logo is seen on a branch bank in the financial district in New York, U.S., Aug. 7, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

LONDON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - HSBC is considering selling its business in Canada, worth billions of dollars and one of the biggest international banking brands in the country, as it looks to beef up returns as demanded by its largest shareholder.

"We are currently reviewing our strategic options with respect to our wholly owned subsidiary in Canada," the bank said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

HSBC declined to comment on the potential valuation of the business, but it had assets of C$125 billion ($92 billion) as of June 30 and total equity of C$5.8 billion, according to its latest financial results.

The business, unlike some others HSBC has tried to dispose of in recent years, is profitable, making C$490 million before tax in the first half of this year.

That means the lender would hope to charge any buyer a substantial premium to its current valuation.

The review is at an early stage, the spokesperson said, and no final decision has been taken, but one option would be a sale of the lender's 100% stake in HSBC Bank Canada.

The disposal would represent the latest in a series of divestments at HSBC, which once styled itself the "world's local bank".

HSBC in May last year announced it would exit mass-market banking in the United States, and in June said it would sell its French retail business as part of a plan to improve profits and fend off calls from top shareholder China's Ping An Insurance Group to split off its Asian business.

If HSBC's review in Canada were to result in the 100% sale of its unit there, that would mark a more complete exit from the country than those other divestments.

HSBC Bank Canada includes four divisions covering HSBC's commercial banking, personal banking, investment banking and markets services business in the country.

The bank is the country's seventh largest by assets, according to Refinitiv data, and the biggest international player in a market dominated by domestic incumbents.

Ping An in April began a campaign pressuring the British bank to explore options including listing its Asia business to increase shareholder returns. Ping An has said it is not an activist investor.

News of HSBC's review of its Canadian business was first reported by Sky.

($1 = 1.3644 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Lawrence White Editing by Sinead Cruise and Mark Potter

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