Citigroup agrees to sell its UK and Ireland Diners Club operation

US financial services company Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) said on Monday it had inked a deal to dispose of its Diners club card issuing operation in the UK and Ireland to private investor group Affiniture Cards Ltd.

As part of the transaction, Affiniture Cards will purchase payment card accounts in the particular countries. The financial terms of the deal were not unveiled.

The move is in line with Citi’s goal to reduce the activities within its portfolio of non-core operating businesses and assets. The bank said it seeks to do so in an “economically rational manner” while generating long-term profitability from its core franchise. It did not provide any further details. The specific portfolio is being held by Citi Holdings.

According to the vendor, Affiniture Cards’ management team has a huge experience in the cards and payments sector.

Citigroup is a global bank with about 200m customer accounts and operations in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. The company specialises in offering consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction and wealth management services to consumers, corporations, governments and institutions.

Swiss SGS acquires Australian Gladstone Testing

Switzerland-based inspection and certification specialist SGS SA (VTX:SGSN) said today it had acquired Australian construction material testing company Gladstone Testing in a move that expands its services in the country.

The financial terms of the transaction were not made public.

SGS CEO Chris Kirk commented that the acquisition gives the company an immediate market presence and strengthens its geographic foothold in Australia.

Besides, it provides the company with growth opportunities in the Gladstone region for the liquefied natural gas and coal industries, the buyer added.

Gladstone Testing is a privately owned firm, which employs 14 people. Its services focus on road construction and the commercial and residential building sectors. The company is seen to generate revenues of more than AUD1.4m (USD1.5m/EUR1.2m) in 2012. The acquisition adds up to SGS’s purchases last month of French test laboratories firm Sercovam Tests Laboratory Group, Belgian life science consultancy Exprimo NV and Brazilian field trial contract research service firm Gravena – Pesquisa, Consultoria e Treinamento Agricola Ltda.

Geneva-based SGS, which was set up in 1878, specialises in the provision of inspection, verification, testing, and certification services. It comprises ten business segments operating across ten geographical regions. With more than 70,000 employees, SGS operates a network of some 1,350 offices and laboratories around the world.

HSBC sells ship brokerage and consultancy arm to management

British banking and financial services group HSBC Holdings plc (LON:HSBA) said its fully-owned unit HSBC Bank plc would shed ship broking and consultancy services provider HSBC Shipping Services Limited to the business’ management, marking a further step in the implementation of the group’s strategy.

Shipping Services, with USD6.8m (EUR5.5m) worth of consolidated gross assets as at 30 June 2012, will change name to Hartland Shipping Services Limited after the deal, which will be carried out through a new firm set up by the buyers, HSBC said without disclosing financial terms.

The group will seal a consultancy accord with Hartland for the sold business to provide global shipping-related valuation and consultancy services to HSBC Group, the vendor explained.

After this disposal, HSBC will continue to offer non-broking and associated consultancy services to the shipping industry.
The deal is seen to wrap up in the fourth quarter of this year.

The British group, with operations in 85 countries globally, is looking to increase focus on rapidly developing markets in Asia.
Its CEO Stuart Gulliver initiated a restructuring process in 2011, with some 28 deals announced since then aimed at eliminating risk-weighted assets from the group’s balance sheet.

The three-year restructuring resulted in 15,000 job cuts and the exit from sub-scale markets and operations with the view of simplifying the business and reducing costs.

For more on HSBC’s asset disposals, click here.


Euro crisis threatens the existence of the EU — Italian PM

Italian prime minister Mario Monti has warned that the sovereign debt crisis in Europe is not only threatening the existence of the eurozone, but also the European Union itself.

Monti told German news magazine der Spiegel in an interview, published on Sunday, that Europe is facing a “psychological break-up”.

Strict conditions of budget cuts attached to bailout funds to struggling eurozone countries, such as Greece, have angered their citizens and Germany especially has been painted in a negative light.

Last week, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi disappointed as he failed to deliver after promising to protect the euro at all costs. Politicians and investors had been expecting decisive measures, following Draghi’s pledge to do “whatever it takes to preserve the euro”.

But the bank left interest rates unchanged and postponed planned bond purchases of debt issued by the most troubled eurozone countries, such as Italy, until September.

Many economists believe the ECB’s decision is strongly influenced by Germany’s Bundesbank, which strongly opposes the buying of bonds. The German central bank also opposes any moves to give a banking license to the European permanent rescue fund, an idea which is supported by Monti.