HSBC to keep bigger Middle East presence

HSBC is to exit fewer countries than predicted in last year’s strategic review as it adjusts its plan for an overhaul of the bank.

Chief executive Stuart Gulliver unveiled a plan last May that would see the bank exit its retail business in 39 countries deemed “subscale”.

But it is understood that is more likely to drop to around 34 as the bank mulls holding on to more businesses in the Middle East.

The bank is already in talks in Oman to buy more branches from Oman International Bank (OIB) but could also stay put in Qatar and Bahrain – particularly if it is able to make further acquisitions in those countries – rather than ditching its retail banks there. It had already said it will keep up its presence in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

So far, HSBC has done 23 deals to offload businesses, many of them “subscale retail” and has freed up $60bn in risk-weighted assets by doing so, which a spokesman said is “to ensure capital is deployed efficiently”.

It has also sold off its private equity arm, which has renamed itself Montagu Private Equity. The bank is also currently in talks to sell its Korean retail business to Korea Development Bank and is planning a sale of its Pakistan retail operations.