LONDON — HSBC Holdings PLC is moving ahead with the sale of its general insurance business and has approached potential buyers in Europe and Asia, a person familiar the situation told Dow Jones Newswires Friday.

The sale is part of the bank's strategy to slash costs, unload businesses and retreat from retail banking in markets where it doesn't have scale. The new plan was set out by HSBC Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver in May as the finance giant aims to convince investors the bank can make strong returns in tough regulatory and economic conditions that have dragged on its profit.

France's AXA SA, Germany's Allianz SE, Switzerland's Zurich Financial Services AG, Australia's QBE Insurance Group Ltd. and Japanese insurer MSIG, are among companies that have been approached according to international press reports. One report suggested the business is worth around $1 billion.

HSBC has 100%-owned general insurance manufacturing operations in France, Hong Kong, Singapore, Argentina, Mexico, and Panama. Many of these are part of companies that also manufacture life insurance or have other interests.

An HSBC spokesman declined to comment.

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