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Credit Suisse plans to push ahead with China expansion after overhaul

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen in Zurich

By Selena Li

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Credit Suisse is forging ahead with expansion in China, with the country and Hong Kong set to see strongest pace of headcount growth in Asia, its regional head said, even as the Swiss bank's turnaround strategy leads to job losses elsewhere.

Battered by years of scandals and losses, Credit Suisse is raising new capital for an overhaul, which will see thousands of job cuts and shift its focus away from investment banking and towards the less volatile wealth management.

As part of the global revamp, Credit Suisse is evaluating its presence in 13 locations in Asia Pacific with an aim to "simplify" operations in each location, Credit Suisse's Singapore-based Asia Pacific chief executive Edwin Low told Reuters, without elaborating.

Low said China and Hong Kong, however, will remain brighter spots.

"If I look at Asia Pacific headcount in the next five years, China and Hong Kong will be the biggest growth market for us," he said. "It's very clear that the market is bigger in China than it is in Southeast Asia, Australia or India."

A Credit Suisse report in September forecast the number of Chinese millionaires will double by 2026.

As part of its China expansion plans, Credit Suisse struck a deal to buy out its Chinese partner in a local securities joint venture last month, at a time when plans of its global overhaul were being deliberated internally.

The move came against the backdrop of slowing growth in the world's second-largest economy.

"China will go through ups and downs, but we're giving the opportunity to acquire 100% of Credit Suisse Securities with our full commitment, knowing that the China recovery may not be immediate," Low said.

Apart from applying for a wealth licence to sell products to its private bank clients, it's setting up a locally incorporated bank, which will take two to three years to build out and after which its clients can trade China-listed shares, he said.

With assets under management worth about $249 billion at end-September, Asia Pacific is Credit Suisse's third-largest market after Switzerland and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa).

(Reporting by Selena Li; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Jane Merriman)