HSBC to end Korean retail banking, wealth management

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HSBC to end Korean retail banking, wealth management

HSBC Holdings plans to wind down its retail banking and wealth management business in South Korea as it seeks to revive profitability.

Europe’s biggest lender plans to close 10 of its 11 branches in Korea pending regulatory approval, according to a statement from the London-based bank yesterday. HSBC “remains committed” to Korea, where it will focus on its global banking and markets business, it said.

Plans by the U.K. lender to withdraw from retail banking in Korea suffered a blow when KDB Financial Group Inc. last year abandoned talks to take over the operation. HSBC Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver has closed or sold at least 52 businesses since he took the job in 2011, including retail operations in 17 markets, according to the statement.

Consumer banking in South Korea has been constrained by rising household debt that’s also burdening the economy. Borrowing and credit purchases by Koreans swelled to a record 963.8 trillion won ($844 billion) at the end of 2012, central bank data show.

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