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Exclusive-HSBC exceeds China wealth hiring targets, explores India private banking re-entry

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November 9, 2021

By Anshuman Daga

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – HSBC Holdings Plc is ahead of its hiring targets for its Chinese retail wealth management business and is exploring re-entering India’s private banking business, senior executives said, as part of its plan to make Asia and wealth key pillars of growth.

Under a strategy spearheaded by Group CEO Noel Quinn, HSBC is ploughing $3.5 billion into its wealth and personal banking business, in line with its ambition to become Asia’s top wealth manager by 2025.

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“We are the leading international bank in China, so we want to squeeze that opportunity,” said CEO of Wealth and Personal Banking Nuno Matos, one of four top executives moving to Hong Kong from London this year as part of the bank’s regional pivot.

“On the private banking side, we are now in clear expansion mode,” Matos told Reuters in one of his first interviews since moving to the region.

Asia is the biggest region for HSBC, and the wealth and personal banking unit contributed 44% or $22 billion to London-headquartered HSBC’s adjusted global revenue last year.

The bank is looking to boost its mobile wealth planning service, HSBC Pinnacle, in China by having about 700 personal wealth planners by the year-end instead of the 550 originally planned, Matos said.

HSBC’s wealth management services include investments, insurance and asset management products, while private banking caters to the needs of those with investible assets of $5 million or more.

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The bank had 20 people operating in China onshore private banking business at the end of last year, said Siew Meng Tan, head of HSBC Private Banking for Asia Pacific.

“By the end of this year, we will get to 64 and by the end of next year, we’ll double that,” she said.

HSBC is exploring whether to re-enter onshore private banking in India, where the ranks of the super rich are growing fast and record high stock markets have created a string of billion dollar start-ups.

HSBC exited the Indian private banking business in 2015 as part of a group strategy. The lucrative but very competitive Indian market has few foreign players.

“We want to bank mass affluent and high net worth customers. At this moment, the two major pillars we are expanding in India are insurance and asset management,” Matos said. “On the private banking side, we are not there yet and that’s something that demands a strategic decision this year.”

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Currently, HSBC is focusing on catering to wealthy Indians from its global hubs in Singapore, London and the Middle East.

‘COMPELLING OPPORTUNITY’

HSBC is also looking to bulk up its Singapore and Southeast Asia presence, Matos said. In August, the bank bought French insurer AXA’s Singapore assets for $575 million.

Though HSBC has a dominant Asia presence with its retail banking, particularly in the financial hub of Hong Kong, global leaders such as UBS and Credit Suisse rule the market for wealthier clients.

Global wealth managers remain bullish about their growth prospects in China despite an unprecedented regulatory crackdown in the world’s second-largest economy.

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In a global wealth report published in June, Boston Consulting Group said Asia’s wealth management revenue pools will soar faster than any other market worldwide, nearly doubling over the next five years to $52 billion.

“Asian wealth is expanding twice as fast as the rest of the world. This is a compelling opportunity for us,” said Matos, who took charge of HSBC’s newly combined division in February.

“I’m not going to re-do now our goals but what I can say is that in 2021, we will over-deliver our goals on the wealth side,” he said.

After announcing plans last year to buy out its life insurance joint venture partner in China, HSBC is also keen to gain full control of its asset management company in the country, Matos said.

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Lincoln Feast.)

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Alibaba overhauls e-commerce businesses, appoints new CFO

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December 6, 2021

(Reuters) -Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said on Monday it was reorganising its international and domestic e-commerce businesses and would appoint a new chief financial officer.

The changes come as Alibaba faces headwinds on multiple fronts, including increased competition, a slowing economy and a regulatory crackdown.

The e-commerce giant’s Hong Kong-listed shares slid 8% in early morning trade.

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Alibaba said it would form two new units to house its main e-commerce businesses – international digital commerce and China digital commerce, in a bid to become more agile and accelerate growth.

The international digital commerce unit will house Alibaba’s overseas consumer-facing and wholesale businesses, and include AliExpress, Alibaba.com and Lazada. The unit will be headed by Jiang Fan, whose past roles include president of the Taobao and Tmall marketplaces.

Alibaba will house its domestic commerce businesses in the China digital commerce unit which be led by Trudy Dai, a founding member of Alibaba, it said.

The company’s deputy chief financial officer, Toby Xu, will succeed Maggie Wu as the company’s chief financial officer from April, it said, describing his appointment as part of the company’s leadership succession plan.

Xu joined Alibaba from PWC three years ago and was appointed deputy CFO in July 2019.

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Wu, who helped lead three Alibaba-related company public listings as CFO, will continue to serve as an executive director on Alibaba’s board.

Last month the company slashed its forecast for annual revenue growth to its slowest pace since its 2014 stock market debut and saw sales at its banner event, online shopping festival Singles Day, grow at their slowest rate ever.

(Reporting by Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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China Evergrande shares hit 11-year low after firm says no guarantee it can meet repayments

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December 6, 2021

By Clare Jim

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Shares of China Evergrande Group tumbled 12% to an 11-year low on Monday after the firm said there was no guarantee it would have enough funds to meet debt repayments, prompting Chinese authorities to summon its chairman.

The shares fell as a 30-day grace period on a coupon payment of $82.5 million due on Nov. 6 comes to an end on Monday.

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Evergrande, once China’s top-selling developer, is grappling with more than $300 billion in liabilities. A collapse could send shockwaves through the country’s property sector and beyond.

In a filing late on Friday, Evergrande, the world’s most indebted developer, also said it had received a demand from creditors to pay about $260 million.

That prompted the government of Guangdong province, where the company is based, to summon Evergrande Chairman Hui Ka Yan, and it later said in a statement it would send a working group to the developer at Evergrande’s request to oversee risk management, strengthen internal controls and maintain normal operations.

In a series of apparently coordinated statements late in the evening, China’s central bank, banking and insurance regulator and its securities regulator sought to reassure the market that any risks to the broader property sector could be contained.

Short-term risks caused by a single real estate firm will not undermine market fundraising in the medium and long term, the People’s Bank of China said, adding that housing sales, land purchases and financing “have already returned to normal in China”.

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Evergraned’s stock fell more than 12% to HK$1.98, its lowest since May 2010.

(Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Christopher Cushing)

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Oil gains more than $1/bbl after Saudi price hike

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December 6, 2021

By Florence Tan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose by more than $1 a barrel on Monday after top exporter Saudi Arabia raised prices for its crude sold to Asia and the United States, and as indirect U.S.-Iran talks on reviving a nuclear deal appeared to hit an impasse.

Brent crude futures for February gained $1.69, or 2.4%, to $71.57 a barrel by 0033 GMT while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for January were at $67.92 a barrel, up $1.66, or 2.5%.

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On Sunday, Saudi Arabia raised January official selling prices for all crude grades sold to Asia and the United States by up to 80 cents from the previous month.

The price hikes were implemented despite a decision last week by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, to continue increasing supplies by 400,000 barrels per day in January.

Prices were also buoyed by diminishing prospects of a rise in Iranian oil exports after indirect U.S.-Iranian talks on saving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal broke off last week. European officials voiced dismay on Friday at sweeping demands by Iran’s new, hardline government. The talks are expected to resume middle of this week.

Both benchmarks rebounded after falling last week for their sixth week in a row for the first time since November 2018 on concerns that the new coronavirus variant Omicron could impact global economic growth and fuel demand.

In another sign of the turmoil unleashed by the ever-changing pandemic, the head of International Monetary Fund said the global lender is likely to lower its global economic growth estimates because of the new variant.

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Omicron has spread to about one-third of U.S. states as of Sunday.

(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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