HSBC Said to Lure Three Bids for Mauritius Retail Bank Unit

HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest bank by market value, is considering selling its retail banking business in Mauritius, two people familiar with the matter said.

The lender has lured bids from banks including Mumbai-based State Bank of India and Port Louis, Mauritius-based AfrAsia Bank and Bramer Banking Corp., one of the people said, declining to be identified because the process is confidential. Some bidders are studying the books of HSBC’s retail bank unit through a due diligence exercise, the person said.

HSBC, which is based in London, in August said it is in talks to sell its U.S. card and retail services unit as part of a plan to eliminate 30,000 jobs by the end of 2013 to curtail expenses. Mauritius, with a population of 1.3 million, has 20 banks with total assets of 874.2 billion rupees ($30 billion) as of the end of October, according to central bank data.

“We review the elements of our businesses and strategy all the time,” HSBC spokeswoman Amelie Desvaux de Marigny said in an e-mailed response to questions. “Mauritius continues to be important for HSBC and we remain focused on building a sustainable business here,” she said, adding that the lender doesn’t comment on speculation.

HSBC also offers commercial, corporate and institutional banking, payments and cash management, trade and export finance, treasury and financial markets, project finance, corporate finance and securities custody in Mauritius, according to its website.

Mauritian Market

“We haven’t received any communication on this matter,” Jugdish Shivalingayya Hiremath, managing director of State Bank of India’s Mauritius unit, based in Port Louis, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “We’re also wondering why HSBC is selling the retail outfit. We haven’t taken a call whether to bid or not.”

AfrAsia won’t “comment on market speculation,” Suneeta Motala, head of marketing and public relations at the lender, said in a mobile phone interview. Javed Bolah, the spokesman of Bramer Banking’s parent, British American Investment Co. Mauritius Ltd., couldn’t immediately comment when contacted today.

The Mauritian banking market is dominated by Mauritius Commercial Bank and State Bank of Mauritius Ltd. with international lenders such as Barclays Plc, Standard Bank Group Ltd., Groupe BPCE’s Banque des Mascareignes of France and Bank of Baroda of India. Mauritius has a bankable population of about 400,000, serviced by 14 lenders, Ravin Dajee chairman of the Mauritius Bankers Association and managing director of Barclays Bank’s Mauritian unit, said on Jan. 6.

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