Apr 21 2013

HSBC says reviewing Iraq presence, may exit country

Sunday, Apr 21, 2013

DUBAI (Zawya Dow Jones)--HSBC Holdings is "reviewing" its operations in Iraq, a process that may result in an exit from that market, a senior executive at the lender said on Sunday.

"HSBC is reviewing it - that means whether to keep it or not," Georges Elhedery, head of global markets in the Middle East and North Africa, said on the sidelines of a company presentation. He said there was no timeframe set for the decision.

HSBC is present in Iraq through a 70% stake in Dar Es Salaam Investment Bank. The bank said in previous years it wanted to play a bigger role in funding the country's infrastructure projects.

Interest in Iraq has risen in the past few years as the war-torn country rebuilds its economy, but continued political uncertainty due to sectarian divisions has forced several international investors to adopt a more cautious view.

Simon Cooper, HSBC's chief executive for the Middle East and North Africa, earlier at the event said the Iraqi operations are under continuous review but declined to give more detail.

The bank globally has exited a number of markets following a company-wide review last year. For instance, the bank decided to downsize its Islamic banking activities, focusing on a fewer number of countries.

But in Egypt, the bank opened a few new branches in the first quarter of this year as it bets on a recovery despite the current economic trouble affecting the North African country.

Mr. Cooper said he expected Egypt to face "a tough" 2013 but that the medium- and long-term growth potential was the main reason for the bank to keep it presence there.

By Nicolas Parasie at nicolas.parasie@dowjones.com

Copyright (c) 2013 Dow Jones & Co.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

21-04-13 1005GMT

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