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HSBC climbs up the risk curve

HSBC's $14 billion purchase of US consumer credit company Household International in 2002 was a cracking transaction. But given how big the UK banking group is, this was not a transformational deal in the way Royal Bank of Scotland's takeover of NatWest was. Two years on, investors are asking what HSBC might do for an encore.

Household is increasingly looking like an opportunistic one-off deal. HSBC snapped up Household for an attractive price when the target's rating was depressed. Initial scepticism about the deal quickly turned into euphoria as the market digested how little HSBC had paid.

But HSBC cannot dine off the deal for ever. It was always going to take a couple of years to integrate Household fully. Now the spotlight is on where HSBC goes from here.

One answer is more M&A. HSBC generates plenty of capital. Moreover it is also one of the two genuinely global banks. Only Citigroup has the same sort of capacity to buy just about any other bank.

Hungry again

HSBC appears to have regained its appetite for deals. It is considering the purchase of 49% of Korea First Bank for a proposed $3 billion.

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