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HSBC Holdings PLC said Wednesday it plans to open seven branches and hire 270 people in Japan by the end of 2008.

The London-based bank, which earns almost half its pretax profit in Asia, is seeking a share of the $14 trillion in financial assets held by individuals in Japan. HSBC will compete with Citigroup Inc., the largest overseas bank with a retail presence here and which plans to double its branch network within several years.

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