HSBC Executive Director Peter Wong said he expected the bank’s rural banking business to turn profitable in three to four years, Reuters reported. Europe’s largest lender received regulatory approval to offer services in rural areas in the middle of last year. Wong also said the bank plans to open at least 27 branches in China this year and hire 3,000 additional staff, an increase of around two-thirds. HSBC posted more than US$1 billion in pretax profit in China last year, including earnings from its nearly one-fifth stake in Bank of Communications and its stake in Ping An Insurance, in which it is the largest single shareholder.

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