HSBC (NYSE: HBC) announced Wednesday an agreement to sell its general insurance businesses in emerging markets for $914 million in cash, in a continuing effort to offload non-banking assets.
France's AXA Group and Australia's QBE Insurance Group have agreed, in separate deals, to buy the insurance entities of Europe's biggest bank. The French insurance company will buy HSBC's insurance subsidiaries in Hong Kong, Singapore and Mexico. QBE has agreed to buy the banks insurance entities in Argentina.
The deal includes a 10-year bank assurance clause with AXA and QBE that could earn HSBC commissions and profit-related cash on top of the initial sale price.
HSBC said the gross asset value of the total sale to be $1.23 billion.
"This is a further step in the execution of our strategy," said HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver in a statement. "It will enable us to focus our capital and resources on the growth of our core businesses, including the building of our broader wealth management capabilities."
HSBC announced plans to sell non-core businesses in May 2011, including shrinking its number of U.S. branches and the sale of European retail banking businesses. It has also cut 11,000 jobs in an effort to lower annual expenses by $3.5 billion.
"We expect rising capitalization requirements across the banking and insurance sectors to continue to drive portfolio re-balancing, with some banks in particular reflecting on the value of manufacturing and/or distributing non-life insurance going forward," Ron Kozlowski, director of Towers Watson's general insurance consulting business in Asia Pacific, told Reuters.
AXA, under CEO Fancois-Valery Lecomte, has doubled down efforts in emerging markets, as AXA tries to double its gross revenues by 2015. The $494 million purchase of HSBC's insurance operations could help Europe's second-largest insurer reach those goals sooner, according to Reuters.
The French insurer said the deal will make it the No. 1 general insurer in Hong Kong and Mexico, and No. 2 in Singapore.
QBE's $420 million purchase of the HSBC's Argentinian assets is the latest in a string of 75 deals over the last decade that has seen Australia's largest insurer by premiums expand into 50 countries.
American Depositary Receipts of HSBC Holdings PLC rose 14 cents to $43.30.