HSBC unaffected by bombs

LONDON (Reuters) – The world’s second-largest bank, HSBC Holdings, said yesterday a bomb attack on its branches in Turkey, the second in six months, would not affect its plans in that country. «The devices that were found over the last couple of days won’t have any impact on our business decisions or investment in Turkey,» a spokesman said. Police and local media said the four small bombs, which exploded in the Turkish cities of Ankara and Istanbul hours before British Prime Minister Tony Blair was set to visit Turkey, caused minor damage and no casualties. HSBC has been hit in Turkey before. Its main Istanbul office was one of four British and Jewish targets bombed in November, attacks which killed 61 people. Despite marketing itself as «the world’s local bank» with operations across the globe, including 12 Middle Eastern countries, HSBC is still perceived as a British bank and a high-profile target for would-be bombers. The bank is intent on building its presence in the Middle East, a region where Britain’s reputation has been shaken by its involvement in the US-led war on Iraq. HSBC, one of three international banks with permits to set up in Iraq, said it had not changed its position on that country. In Turkey, HSBC is still building its presence, having bought Demirbank, the fifth-biggest Turkish private bank, in 2001 for $350 million and store-card company Benkar in a deal worth $75 million. HSBC opened its first office in Turkey in 1990 and now has about 160 branches and 3,500 staff in the country. No one claimed responsibility for yesterday’s bombing.

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