By Denise Wee June 16, 2021, 10:31 AM GMT+8

  •  Citi says HSBC’s Asia wealth could be valued at $96 billion
  •  HSBC’s regional wealth business is ‘underappreciated’

HSBC Holdings Plc was raised to buy by Citigroup Inc. because of the European bank’s “under appreciated” wealth business in Asia, a region that leads the world in minting billionaires.

The U.S. bank estimates that HSBC’s Asia wealth business alone could be valued at $72 billion to $96 billion, or as much as 75% of its market capitalization, according to a report by Citgroup analysts including Yafei Tian.

“Generating over $5 billion in Asia wealth, HSBC’s Asia franchise is under appreciated by the market, in our view, due to the group’s global complexity,” the analysts said. “Simplification is underway.”

The London-based bank is in the midst of a plan to shift and invest billions of dollars in Asia and hire more than 5,000 new wealth planners to grow its business over the next three to five years as part of a broader pivot to the region. It’s also exiting or paring back operations in Europe and the U.S.

While HSBC’s shares in Hong Kong have risen 17% this year, it’s trading at close to historical wide 40% discount to price-to-book valuation versus peers, Citi said. The shares rose 1.2% to HK$47.90 as of 10:29 a.m. in Hong Kong.

HSBC is well positioned to grow its wealth revenue, benefiting from a plan to link southern Chinese cities with Hong Kong called Wealth Connect, scaling up its private banking and expanding its insurance offerings, Citi said.

Citi said HSBC, which counts Hong Kong as its biggest market, had the highest revenue from wealth in Asia than of any bank. In private banking, it ranked third last year in terms of assets, excluding mainland China, according to Asian Private Banker.

HSBC Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn is targeting making the bank a market leader in wealth management, a steadier source of revenue than lending and trading. To boost its push into Asia, the bank is in the process of moving Nuno Matos, chief executive officer of wealth and personal banking, to Hong Kong from London.

HSBC also has potential to grow its business in China through partnerships, including with its largest shareholder, Ping An Group Co., according to Citi.

“If the two can reach partnership, they could greatly increase each other’s wealth market share across the border,” Citi said.

By Bloomberg News