Westpac to retreat from Asia to focus on Australia, New Zealand

Adds comments from Westpac and sources

Oct 14 (Reuters)Australia’s Westpac Banking Corp WBC.AX said on Wednesday it will exit operations in China and some other Asian markets to focus on its core domestic and New Zealand businesses, following a review of its international operations.

The country’s second-largest lender said it will exit operations in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Jakarta and consolidate its international operations into branches in Singapore, London and New York.

The moves are expected to impact between 150 to 200 staff, mostly based in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and will take up to 24 months to complete, a person familiar with the bank’s plans told Reuters.

“Westpac’s priority is to focus on its core Australian and New Zealand customers and to support them in areas where we have scale and capability,” Westpac Institutional Bank’s acting Chief Executive Curt Zuber said in a statement.

Westpac said the changes announced on Wednesday will not affect its cash earnings and will help improve capital efficiency, including by reducing its risk-weighted assets by over A$5 billion ($3.6 billion).

The move comes at a time when the bank has been hit by steep costs from a money laundering scandal and a surge in charges for bad loan provisions due to the coronavirus outbreak, prompting a review of its underperforming wealth, pension investments and insurance units earlier this year.

($1 = 1.3963 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan and Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Tom Hogue and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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