Morgan Stanley could sell its Indian pvt bank

Morgan Stanley has launched the sale of its India private wealth management unit, which manages about $1 billion including loans, after entering the highly fragmented and competitive market just four years ago, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Sources said it was not yet clear what price tag the unit could fetch. Morgan Stanley has launched a strategic review of the division, the sources said, a process that typically ends with a sale.

The review is part of the bank's efforts to withdraw from subscale wealth management operations globally, one of the sources said.

The sources declined to be named because the sale process is not public. A Morgan Stanley spokesman declined to comment. The bank's India unit sale underscores a growing trend of consolidation in Asia's wealth management industry as private banks struggle to earn profits in the face of rising regulatory costs and wafer-thin advisory fees.

India is a particularly difficult market for wealth managers. Cut-throat competition, high staff costs and weak markets are squeezing revenue, while opportunities for growth are limited by regulations that restrict product offerings and by the concealment of billions of dollars of personal wealth from tax officials.

Swiss private banks without a presence in India may be among possible bidders for Morgan Stanley's private banking business, drawn by the longer-term prospects of Asia's third-largest economy, market sources said.

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