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HSBC Plans to Bid for Aviva Asia Business, Seeks to Diversify

Zacks Equity Research

HSBC Holdings plc HSBC is contemplating whether it should buy the Asia business of Aviva Plc, a multinational insurance company based in London, U.K. The bank, which intends to diversify its business in the region, is in the early stage of weighing an offer for the Asia operations being sold by Aviva, per Bloomberg.

Per people with knowledge of the matter, if a deal is signed between the two companies, it will help HSBC in strengthening its insurance business in Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia.

In August, Aviva confirmed that it is looking for alternatives for its Asia business, including the option of selling it.

In Asia, Singapore is Aviva’s largest market. Its life insurance unit generates nearly $1.6 billion in new businesses there. Notably, the company has been trying to take advantage of the surging number of middle-class consumers in Asia.

People familiar with the matter said that there are other prospective buyers, who are considering bids for Aviva’s assets. However, nothing has been finalized yet. HSBC and Aviva have also not made any comments on the matter.

Notably, HSBC generates more than half of its pretax profit in Hong Kong. However, because of the continuous protests there, people have become increasingly worried about the city’s growth potential.

Moreover, in Singapore, HSBC has a relatively smaller presence as compared to its peers. Hence, in order to expand its operations in the region, the bank is interested in a deal with Aviva.

While HSBC has been planning to strengthen performance, with special focus on building operations in Asia, including Hong Kong and China, to deliver high-single-digit revenue growth annually from the region; the company has also been announcing several cost-cutting initiatives.

Recently, the bank said that in order to enhance operating efficiency amid challenging market conditions, it plans to reduce almost 4,000 jobs globally, which accounts for nearly 2% of its workforce.

This news came in after the company’s CEO, John Flint, announced his surprise departure from the firm. Concurrent with the second-quarter 2019 earnings release, it was announced that Flint, who joined HSBC in 1989 and has remained CEO for nearly 1.5 years, stepped down.

Apart from HSBC, companies like Deutsche Bank DB, Nomura Holdings, Inc. NMR, Citigroup C and a few others have also been planning to reduce workforce amid increasing geopolitical tensions.

Shares of HSBC have lost 11.8% so far this year compared with a 4.7% decline of the industry.

Currently, the company carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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