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HSBC to Launch Retail Banking in Japan Next Year - FT

HSBC Holdings is set to launch retail banking operations in Japan early next year and plans to open as many as 50 branches within four years, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

HSBC is expected to offer high-end banking and wealth-management services in an attempt to lure Japan's most affluent customers away from the country's largest retail banks, the newspaper said.

The investment will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and the UK-based bank is aiming to focus primarily on the Tokyo market and then branch out to other cities, such as Osaka and Nagoya, it said.

"Retail banking is an area we're looking at," said Paul Allen, a spokesman for HSBC's Japan operation. "We can't give you any information now. We're not in a position to do that."

HSBC, which has wholesale banking and securities operations in Japan, has yet to win the go-ahead from the Financial Services Agency, the Financial Times said.

The report comes after Citigroup announced a Japanese retail banking expansion in January. The U.S. bank plans to set up a new locally incorporated entity and double its retail network to 60 branches in the next several years.

It plans to open five new branches during 2007.

Citigroup is also poised to acquire Japan's No.3 brokerage firm Nikko Cordial Corp., which would come with 110 branches, 2.2 million customers and 30 trillion yen in retail assets.

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