HSBC Mulling Possible Sale of US Mortgage Unit
HSBC Bank USA is considering the possible sale of its US-based mortgage unit, HSBC Mortgage Corp., and notified employees Monday of the possible options being considered although no firm timetable for a potential decision was provided. The bank, the U.S. subsidiary of London-based HSBC Holdings Plc (HBC), bases much of its US operations in New York state. Options for the mortgage subsidiary include "a sale, merger or other business combination," according to a statement from the bank, which also said the mortgage company may look to sell substantially all of its assets. It's also possible that no changes at all will be made, the bank said. Bank spokesperson Neil Brazil stressed to the press that HSBC is not looking to exit US mortgage originations, but is instead assessing how it conducts its mortgage business in the United States. "We are still very much in the mortgage origination business. That's not a part of the business that we're looking to exit at all," Brazil told The Buffalo News, a local news service that originally broke the story. "The bank will still be making mortgage loans to our bank customers. This is a review of the process of how we do that." HSBC's mortgage operations currently employ roughly 1,500 in the US, according to the company, and the company was the 21st largest mortgage originator in the US during 2009. But Europe's largest bank has been moving to reduce its exposure to unsecured lending and exiting unprofitable businesses for the past two years, tranferring its North American consumer finance operations into a run-off portfolio following heavy losses from subprime lending. Beyond considering options for its US-based mortgage business, the bank is in the process of divesting from other assets and recently announced that a deal to sell the remainder of its vehicle finance loan portfolio, which totaled $4.3 billion at the end of June, would close in Q310. HSBC's North American operations posted a pretax profit of $492 million in the first half of 2010, helping the bank increase profits by more than 100% through June of this year. Paul Jackson is the publisher of HousingWire.com and HousingWire Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @pjackson The author holds no relevant investments.