Exclusive-HSBC to acquire Citigroup China consumer wealth business -sources

By Selena Li

HONG KONG (Reuters) -HSBC is set to acquire Citigroup’s China consumer wealth management business, which manages more than $3 billion in assets, two sources with knowledge of the matter said, in a major boost to the London-based bank’s business in that country.

The transaction, the financial details of which were not immediately known, will also see Asia-focussed HSBC taking over “a few hundreds” of Citi’s China-based staff, said one of the sources.

The deal could be announced as soon as next month, the two sources said, who could not be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

HSBC and Citi declined to comment.

The acquisition adds to a list of moves by HSBC to expand in China, one of its key markets as Europe’s largest lender vows to exit less profitable geographies to focus on its key revenue generator, Asia.

Looming uncertainties around doing business in China have dampened the appetite of Western companies, with fewer banks boosting their presence in face of weaker economic growth and new national security restrictions on data transfers.

However, HSBC’s chairman Mark Tucker told Beijing officials during a visit in July that an “ice-breaking” spirit adopted by British businesses historically would help the UK and China overcome challenges and geopolitical tensions, a bank statement said.

The bank, which already runs wealth management and private banking services in the local market, earlier this month scored a first of its kind fund distribution qualification granted to a foreign firm, giving it new opportunities in China’s 28.8 trillion yuan ($3.94 trillion) fund market.

HSBC aims to tap its insurance brokerage network to kick off fund sales to wealthy Chinese people as soon as next month, the second source said.

Citi’s China wealth management operations, part of the retail banking business it has been looking to exit since 2021, mainly serves rich clients in the world’s second-largest economy with deposit, fund and structured product offerings.

Its $3 billion in consumer assets under management is dwarfed by its Chinese and foreign peers such as Standard Chartered, which have more retail branches handling wealth management.

Its private banking services, catering to high net worth Chinese clients from the bank’s locations outside of China, remains intact, the first source said. Citi is also in the process of applying to set up a China securities brokerage unit.

Citi said in December it was looking to sell some of its portfolios as it wound down its China retail banking business, part of a strategy to withdraw from consumer franchises in 14 markets in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Mexico.

In Asia, Citi is in the process closing its South Korea operation and plans to complete transferring its Indonesian business to UOB Group. In August, it completed the sale and migration of its Taiwan consumer businesses.

($1 = 7.3076 yuan)

(Reporting by Selena Li; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee, Tom Hogue and Sonali Paul)