Updated from 2:46 a.m. ESTHSBC Holdings ( HBC), Europe's largest bank by market value, plans to raise $17.7 billion of equity, cut 6,100 jobs as it curtails writing further consumer finance business in the U.S. through its HFC and Beneficial brands, and said net income in 2008 plunged 70%. Net earnings in 2008 fell to $5.73 billion from $19.1 billion. The bank said pretax profit in 2008 was $9.3 billion and added there is a "difficult" outlook for 2009. However, the bank said its performance in January was ahead of expectations, particularly in global banking and markets. Excluding goodwill impairments, pretax profits for 2008 fell 18% to $19.9 billion. For North America, the bank reported a loss of $15.5 billion, including a goodwill impairment charge of $10.6 billion in personal financial services. "It is now clear that models of direct personal lending that depend on wholesale markets for funding are no longer viable," the bank said in a statement. "In light of this, we have taken the difficult decision that, with the exception of credit cards, we will write no further consumer finance business through the HFC and Beneficial brands in the U.S. and close the majority of the network." Closing the U.S. branch network will result in a restructuring charge of $265 million in the first half of 2009, HSBC said, including closure costs and noncash charges, and annualized cost savings of about $700 million. HSBC said its retail bank branch business in the U.S. isn't affected by the restructuring. HSBC's Tier 1 capital ratio -- a key indicator of a bank's financial strength -- fell to 8.3% in 2008 from 9.3% a year earlier, but the bank said the share issue would boost that to 9.8%. "This capital raising will enhance our ability to deal with the impact of an uncertain economic environment and to respond to unforeseen events," said CEO Stephen Green. The company, which unlike rivals Royal Bank of Scotland ( RBS) and Lloyds Banking Group ( LYG) has avoided taking government bailout funds, cut its dividend to 64 cents a share, a 29% decrease from 2007.
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