HSBC Holdings PLC, Europe’s largest bank, is seeking buyers for its Japanese consumer banking unit four years after starting the business, three people familiar with the matter said.
HSBC may sell HSBC Premier, the division that targets wealthy individuals in Japan, the people said on condition of anonymity because the plan isn’t public.
The London-based bank has started an auction for the business, and may shut it if offers aren’t attractive enough, two of the people said.
The UK lender is scaling back in parts of Asia, including Japan, South Korea and Thailand, as chief executive officer Stuart Gulliver cuts assets to reduce expenses and prepare for tighter capital rules.
HSBC said on Tuesday that it agreed to sell operations in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras to Colombia’s Banco Davivienda SA for US$801 million to focus on bigger markets in Latin America.
Paul Allen, a spokesman for HSBC in Tokyo, declined to comment on the status of the Japanese retail unit.
HSBC, which opened its first Japanese branch in the port city of Yokohama in 1866, started services for “mass-affluent” customers — people with savings of at least ￥10 million (US$128,000) — in Tokyo in 2008.
In 2010, it added retail offices in Osaka and Nagoya, the second-and third-largest metropolitan areas, bringing the total to six.
HSBC’s three Tokyo branches are in the Marunouchi financial district, as well as Hiroo and Akasaka.
Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd, a unit of Japan’s biggest banking group, had 772 branches nationwide as of Sept. 30.
Apart from retail services, HSBC has securities and asset management operations in Japan.
Last month, HSBC agreed to sell its Japanese private banking business to Credit Suisse Group AG.
The sale of the unit, which managed assets of US$2.7 billion as of Oct. 31, is expected to be completed in the second quarter of this year, HSBC said in a statement, without disclosing the price.
Bank of Ayudhya Pcl, the Thai lender partly owned by General Electric Co, is seeking Bank of Thailand approval to buy HSBC’s credit card and retail business in the nation, the Bangkok Post reported last month, citing an unidentified person.
KDB Financial Group Inc, South Korea’s largest state-run banking group, is in talks to buy HSBC’s branches in the country, the Seoul-based lender’s chairman Kang Man-soo said on Jan. 5.