LONDON — HSBC Holdings PLC said Tuesday it is selling its Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras businesses to Colombian banking group Banco Davivienda SA for $801 million, as it continues to whittle down its portfolio of global retail banking assets.
The sale of the businesses represents a continuation of a strategy the U.K.-based international bank set out in May 2011 of withdrawing from some of the 87 countries in which it was operating and shoring up capital.
Banco Davivienda, Colombia's third-largest lender by assets, beat competitors after an auction to acquire the assets, a person familiar with the matter said. The three regional business units are part of a wholly-owned subsidiary based in Panama, and are marginally profitable, the person said.
At Sept. 30, the three businesses consisted of 136 branches across the three countries and held approximately $4.3 billion of assets and $2.5 billion in loans, HSBC said.
In November, Banco Davivienda completed a share placement for 716 billion pesos ($394 million), that it earmarked for overseas expansion in Peru, Chile and Central America.
HSBC Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver last year set out plans to cut costs by between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion by 2013, shedding tens of thousands of jobs and being stricter with how the bank's capital is deployed.
The bank has said it will exit regions in which its businesses fail to live up to key tests including a return on equity target of between 12% and 15%.
Prior to its recent decision to exit some markets HSBC's strategy was to enter markets whenever possible, advertising itself under the slogan "The World's Local Bank."
Gulliver said at the time of the 2011 announcement that outside of the U.K. and Hong Kong, retail banking hadn't made a substantial return for the bank.
Since January 2011, HSBC has sold 18 businesses, including its U.S. credit cards business, its Canadian retail brokerage and its private banking business in Japan, which it sold to Credit Suisse Group AG in December 2011.