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McEwan in Singapore talks to sell assets

Royal Bank of Scotland to make further retreat from Asia

Ross McEwanRoyal Bank of Scotland is to sell most of its Asian corporate banking business in another retreat from its global expansion.

It employs some 2,000 staff in Asia-Pacific and according to Bloomberg, it would be likely to retain some corporate banking operations in Singapore while offloading the rest.

The agency quoted one source saying: “RBS would probably keep some operations in Singapore offering clients dollar, euro and yen fixed-income products.”

Chief executive Ross McEwan held a series of meetings in Singapore over the weekend to consider ways to reduce its presence in the region and focus its activities on the UK.

There was no indication that the bank had lined up a buyer for its unwanted assets which is likely to include residual business in China which was a key plank in former chief executive Fred Goodwin’s international expansion strategy. Mr Goodwin bought a substantial stake in Bank of China though he had wanted it to be bigger.

Mr McEwan, who took over from Goodwin’s successor Stephen Hester in 2013, is continuing to shrink the bank in readiness for it being sold back into private hands, though that is not likely to happen for some time yet.

The bank has recently shut its trading business in Tokyo and the international division of Coutts, RBS’s private bank, is being sold.

In September, the company floated part of Citizens Financial, its US retail bank, and it must dispose of the rest of it by the end of next year.

After six years of annual losses, the bank is expected to report a profit for 2014.


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