HSBC makes $9bn from Ping An sale

HSBC, Europe's largest bank, has agreed the sale of its 15.6 per cent stake in the Chinese insurance giant Ping An for $9.4bn (£5.8bn).

It is the latest and by far the largest move by its chief executive Stuart Gulliver to focus HSBC on its most profitable businesses and withdraw from non-core activities.

HSBC will book a profit of $2.6bn on the sale to Thailand's Charoen Pokphand Group, which is controlled by the country's richest man, Dhanin Chearavanont.

Last year, the stake in Ping An contributed $964m to HSBC's profits. It is one of the world's biggest insurance businesses, with 74 million customers and half a million agents.

The sale proceeds will raise HSBC's core tier 1 capital ratio – the key measure of balance-sheet strength – by 0.5 per cent, to 12.1 per cent, making it one of the strongest in Europe.

Mr Gulliver said: "China remains a key market for the group and we will strengthen our focus on growing our own operations and building on our long-term strategic banking partnership with the Bank of Communications."

HSBC has a 19 per cent stake in the Chinese Bank of Communications.

The deal is Charoen Pokphand's first major venture into the financial services world. Up until now it has concentrated on agricultural feeds for poultry and pigs, ready meals and motorcycle manufacturing.

Mr Dhanin's Charoen Pokphand Group was one of the first external investors in China, but the deal appears to strengthen the 73-year-old's ties to Beijing.

"This is phenomenal for HSBC shareholders because the bank is now sitting on at least $8bn in profit," Jim Antos, an analyst at Mizuho Securities in Hong Kong, said.

HSBC had already sold $6.7bn-worth of assets, including its non-life insurance operations and retail banking branches in places such as Thailand and the United States.

HSBC shares closed up 7.9p at 644.1p.

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