Hoping to leverage its strength in Asia, HSBC Investment Bank Asia Ltd. has formed a group to focus on trans-Pacific mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance.

Incorporating the banking company's operations in the United States and Canada, the newly dubbed North America corporate finance liaison unit will be based in Hong Kong. It will seek to identify M&A, joint venture, and equity investment opportunities in North America and Asia, as well as offer financial services such as local cash management.

"HSBC has been doing this informally for years," said Guy Longobardo, managing director of corporate finance at HSBC Securities Inc., New York. He is senior executive of the new group in the United States. "We felt it was timely to put this in place formally," he said, "focusing on the Asia- North America link."

This year, parent HSBC Holdings PLC allied itself with Wachovia Corp. to market corporate financial services globally. The alliance is to focus on the joint marketing of trade finance, cash management, and corporate banking services.

The new trans-Pacific unit will work with companies from the size of the Fortune 50 down through middle-market corporations, said Mr. Longobardo. No hiring is currently planned for the group.

Clients are expected to include industrial companies seeking partnerships or operations in Asia to take advantage of lower labor and capital costs.

The new venture-part of HSBC Holdings' $352 billion-asset worldwide banking empire -will go up against European and Asian investment banks as well as U.S. commercial and investment banks that have expanded operations in Asia during the past 10 years.

Having operated in the region since 1865, HSBC is known for the depth and breadth of its Asian contacts, many of whom are in key emerging nations, including China.

HSBC Holdings was granted section 20 securities underwriting authority by the Fed in February 1996, and it now has more than $350 million of capital and 500 employees in its U.S. investment banking operation.

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