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

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

Westpac was accused in 2019 of breaching money-laundering and counter-terrorism regulations 23 million times. (AFP/William WEST)

SINGAPORE: Australia's Westpac Banking Corp said on Wednesday (Oct 14) 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.

In response to queries from CNA about the impact of the move on its operations in Singapore, Westpac said that "transition plans are still being finalised."

"Due to individual confidentiality we are unable to disclose specific numbers. We are working closely with impacted employees and providing them the necessary support from both financial and well-being standpoints,” a spokesperson said.

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 (US$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.

Source: AGENCIES/kv

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