HSBC in talks to sell South American businesses

HSBC is in talks to sell assets in several South American countries, the banking giant said Thursday, as part of its plans to streamline global operations to cut costs.

Europe's biggest bank said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, where it is listed, that it "is in discussions regarding the possible sale of its operations in Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay".

"HSBC will make a further announcement if or when appropriate," the brief statement said, without elaborating on the talks.

HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver last year announced plans to focus on high-growth emerging markets and save up to $3.5 billion through asset sales and a war on costs, including axing 30,000 jobs globally by 2013.

HSBC has already disposed of its United States credit card and retail services business, as well as the 195-branch network primarily in upstate New York.

In March, it sold its general insurance businesses in Hong Kong, Singapore, Argentina and Mexico for around $914 million. It has also sold its Canadian retail brokerage and exited retail banking in Russia, Chile and Poland.

HSBC announced Tuesday that its underlying pre-tax profits rose 25 percent to $6.8 billion in the first quarter, helped by emerging markets growth and higher income at its investment banking division.

"We have had a good start to the year," Gulliver has said.

HSBC -- which unlike many of its rivals survived the 2008 crisis without state aid -- was founded in Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1865, although it remains headquartered in London.

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