HSBC is playing coy about the future of its U.S. retail banking unit — perhaps a smart negotiating tactic in a hot M&A market.
News reports in recent days built up anticipation that the London banking giant would announce the sale of its underperforming 152-branch network in the United States during its fourth-quarter earnings call. But that didn’t happen.
Instead, executives said Tuesday they are still exploring “organic and inorganic options” for the retail unit and reaffirmed the plan announced a year ago to restructure its overall U.S. business by focusing on international corporate banking and wealth management.
An HSBC spokesman declined to say if discussions are underway with potential buyers who might be interested in all or part of the company’s far-flung U.S. franchise, which is split between the East and West coasts.
If the unit is on the block as many suspect, it could be in HSBC’s interest to take its time in a seller’s market, according to Chris Marinac, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott.
M&T Bank, Huntington Bancshares and PNC Financial Services Group have each announced sizable merger agreements in recent months. Citizens Financial Group says it’s open to a bank deal, and New York Community Bancorp is actively on the hunt…