Habib Bank Limited (HBL) has announced plans to wind up operations of Habib Finance International Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the bank, based in Hong Kong.
The bank has been operating the subsidiary since 1976 in Central Hong Kong which provides services such as the provision of loans, deposits saving, and trade financing services.
According to the financial report, the bank has filed for voluntary liquidation and is in the process of completing the required formalities in this regard. The process may take a few months to conclude the exit in phases as per rules and regulations of the operating country and State Bank of Pakistan.
The closure of the operations by HBL will minimize the presence of Pakistani financial sector in one of the global financial hubs having stiff competition among institutions. Besides HBL, Bank Al-Habib already withdrew its license for operating a subsidiary in Hong Kong and wrapped up its planned operations last year.
HBL Shuts Down its Branches in Seychelles
The bank has also finally shut down its branch in Seychelles (East Africa) recently following the approval from concerned regulators of the two countries and the completion of post-closure formalities.
It continued its spree to curtail its foreign operations since 2017 from the closure of a branch in France and a representative office in Iran. It was forced to exit from New York after the regulator enforced a heavy penalty in 2017 due to non-compliance of rules. The bank also merged its operations in Kenya with a Diamond Trust Bank. And now it is working to wind up its branch in Afghanistan on the basis of issues with the regulator of the operating country, which it termed did not comply with the Pakistani bank.
The bank management expressed its stance on the closure of its subsidiary for the rightsizing of operations and in order to bring efficiency in the system particularly in the international operations of the bank, which also include its strategy of shifting focus to China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
HBL Leadership’s Role
The closure of HBL’s branches is also reducing the international footprint of Pakistani banking industry in the international market which is sadly decreasing the income to the country as well.
HBL’s charge has been given to Muhammad Aurangzeb who has rich experience of banking in the international market. A former banker of JP Morgan was hired in 2018 with high hopes. He was the highest-paid CEO of a bank in Pakistan. Not only this, but he was awarded a crown of the Pakistani banking industry and elected as the Chairman Pakistani Banks Association.
Earlier, the bank also hired two former Governors of the State Bank of Pakistan — Salim Reza and Ashraf Wathra — as directors of the board and corporate consultant for international operations. These two bankers were highly experienced with a deep understanding of the international banking business but they failed as well and the bank succumbed to the regulatory and accounting revisions and tough economic circumstances in different countries.
The bank is not in losses but its profit dived to 50 percent in the first half of 2018 from last year, which stood at Rs. 3.92 billion. The bank made a record profit of Rs. 34.2 billion in 2016 merely three years earlier, which is not only its all-time high profit but the highest ever profit made by any Pakistani bank.