Chase Manhattan Bank plans to unload its last credit card operation abroad by selling its 54% interest in Manhattan Card Co. of Hong Kong.
"The operation became nonstrategic for us, as we increasingly focus on our products in the U.S.," said Robert D. Hunter, senior executive vice president, who oversees the Hong Kong operation.
Chase's card business there has existed for at least a decade, said Mr. Hunter.
In June 1993, the New York money-center sold 46% of the company in a public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
CITIC Pacific, an investment vehicle of the Chinese government, is the company's second-largest shareholder, controlling 25% of the publicly owned stock.
Chase's plan to sell its portion of the company is consistent with its overall corporate strategy, analysts said.
During the past four years, Chase has pulled the plug on its card operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Singapore, and Taiwan.
"Most of the operations were small, and would have required massive investments to get them up to speed, so we decided to make that investment" in the United States, said Mr. Hunter.
Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Ron Mandle said he believes Chase would use the capital from the sale for a major stock repurchase. Mr. Mandle estimated that Chase would buy back at least 10%, or $20 million worth, of its outstanding shares to enhance shareholder value.
Chase insisted that the Hong Kong operation has been profitable, with about $400 million of receivables outstanding, and growing more rapidly than the local market.
"We will only sell (our share) if we get an attractive bid," said Mr. Hunter.
Both the Citibank unit of Citicorp and American Express have operations in Hong Kong, but Mr. Hunter declined to identify the companies with which Chase is negotiating.
Chase will continue to offer other consumer products through its 11 branches in Hong Kong.
Mr. Hunter explained that those businesses are more "strategically involved in what we do as a bank in Hong Kong," by contrast with the card business, which is not even marketed under the Chase name.