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HSBC France is up for sale – who might buy it?

The retail bank network of HSBC France is up for sale with potential buyers cited as including Société Générale, La Poste, the Franco-German bank Oddo BHF, one American fund and one British fund.

Official statements from interested parties are rare but leaks suggest that Société Générale and La Poste, the former front-runners, have dropped back, finding it too difficult to price the risk associated with outstanding loans issued by HSBC France.

Before the lockdown, there were reports that offers for the loss-making bank were very low at between €0 and €50million because of the risk of between €7billion and €15billion which went with it, and HSBC’s wish to keep hold of profitable portfolios.

With 5,000 employees, 800,000 clients and a network of 250 branches, concentrated mainly in the Paris region and the south-west, HSBC France is large enough for any future deal to be looked at closely by regulators.

Oddo BHF look like the most likely buyer, according to the French financial press.

The Paris based private bank, owned by the Oddo family, bought the German BHF bank in 2016, and a smaller German bank last year and has a stated policy of growth across Europe.

The picture is complicated though by a small French private bank, Meeschaert being put back on the market, after a previous attempt to sell it in 2016 was sunk by family arguments among the cousins who had a share in its ownership. 

Cédric Meeschaert and his sisters have since bought out shares owned by other family members, to enable the present sale.

At that time, the asking price was a reported €150million, which is now thought to be reduced to between €80million and €90million.

La Poste’s private banking unit BPE, and Rothschild & Co both said they were interested, and Oddo BHF has now joined them.

This might be a sign that its interest in the much larger HSBC France deal has waned, and it prefers a smaller, less complex, deal.

HSBC France was formed in 2000 when the London based HSBC bank won a bidding war against the Dutch ING bank, to buy Crédit Commercial de France, paying €11billion.

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