HSBC Holdings PLC said Tuesday that it has sold its Marbles and Beneficial card portfolios in the United Kingdom to SAV Credit Ltd. for about $796 million.
The portfolios, which consist of 338,000 accounts, are not part of HSBC's core assets in its home country, the London company said. "We are fortunate to have a number of strong brands with which to grow our cards business in the U.K. These include HSBC and First Direct and through our relationships with [the] major retailers M&S and John Lewis," Steve Britain, the head of consumer cards, said in a press release. "The Marbles and Beneficial brands are not a core part of this strategy."
Analysts said that HSBC has previously sold assets that it saw as noncore and that it did not want to use as building blocks.
"It is part of HSBC's strategy to sell noncore assets in which they don't have a critical mass and develop markets" where it wants to be, said Ian Poulter, an analyst with Landsbanki Securities Ltd.
SAV Credit provides credit cards and related financial products to people who fail the standard underwriting rules of mainstream issuers. This market makes up almost 20% of the U.K. adult population.
SAV Credit is partially owned by the private equity company Palamon Capital Partners of London, which was an original backer when the company was set up in 2001.
"This acquisition moves the company to the forefront of the nonstandard credit card market," said Daan Knottenbelt, a Palamon partner. "Its abilities to underwrite and manage these products have attracted the support of major financial institutions," he said, and SAV Credit's "skills are now particularly relevant in the current environment."