HSBC to sell Russian division to banking tycoon
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HSBC to sell Russian division to banking tycoon

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HSBC is closing in on a deal to sell its Russian business to the banking tycoon Igor Kim following pressure from MPs to withdraw and fully condemn Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The lender is understood to be in talks with Expobank, which is owned by Mr Kim, over a sale, with discussions said to be at an advanced stage.

A sale would mark the latest major lender to exit Russia after Societe Generale, one of France’s oldest lenders, said it will offload its entire stake in Rosbank and its Russian insurance subsidiaries to Interros Capital, the investment firm founded by the sanctioned oligarch Vladimir Potanin.

HSBC exited retail banking in Russia in 2011 and now primarily serves corporate clients in the region. HSBC’s Russia business was worth 89.9 billion rubles (£1.2bn) as of June 2021, when it employed 249 people, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the talks.

In April, HSBC suspended the addition of new customers to its existing Russian business but stopped short of pulling out completely and has continued to employ around 200 staff in the country. The bank, which is Europe's biggest lender, has faced calls from MPs on the Treasury Select Committee to fully withdraw from Russia.

Mel Stride, the Conservative MP and chairman of the committee, said in March: “By staying put, businesses and banks might give the impression that they do not fully condemn Putin’s ruthless and inhumane actions, as well as failing to keep up the economic pressure on the regime.”

An ethnic Korean, Mr Kim was born in Kazakhstan but was raised in a small port town on Russia’s Pacific coast, where his father was a shipyard engineer.

Expobank has offices in more than 50 Russian cities and covers corporate and retail banking. The lender was briefly sanctioned by the Canadian government in 2014 but was taken off the country’s list within months after it lodged an inquiry into the decision.

In an interview with Euromoney in 2015, Mr Kim said: “We went through our entire client list but we couldn’t find any client that was implicated in any sanctions or had a particular connection with Ukraine.

“We have bought numerous subsidiaries of international banks and we have never had a problem with compliance at any stage in these processes. We have never been involved in any scandals.”

HSBC declined to comment on the talks. Expobank did not respond to requests for comment.