If banks are no longer active, why do they still have a banking license?

During my research on banks in Europe, I came across some strange things. Here’s an example. Some banks have a banking license in a country, while the banks themselves say they are no longer active there:

LBBW has a banking license in Luxembourg according to the ECB.

LBBW doesn’t mention Luxembourg on its global locations site. A 2012 article says LBBW pulled out of Luxembourg.

Credit Europe has a banking license in Belgium according to the ECB.

But Credit Europe says it has stopped its activities in Belgium in 2016.

Bank of Scotland has a banking license in France and in the Netherlands, according to the ECB. But the bank says it does not operate internationally.

What’s going on here?

International bank divestments

From the 1990s until the global financial crisis, there was a wave of consolidation and international expansion by Western European banks. Over the past decade, M&A activity has been a fraction of what it used to be. International banks have sold part of their foreign subsidiaries, either volontarily or because regulators forced them to slim down.

Who did they sell to? Often to local or regional banks.

Examples (note that this is a work in progress!):

Africa

Barclays (UK) sells its controlling stake in Absa (South Africa and 9 other African countries) to investors (2017)

Americas

BBVA (Spain) sells BBVA USA to American PNC Financial Services Group (2020)

Asia and the Middle East

Dexia (Belgium) sells Denizbank (Turkey) to Russian Sberbank (2012)

ABN AMRO (Netherlands) winds down its corporate banking activities in Asia, Australia, Brazil and the US (2020)

HSBC (UK) wants to exit Turkey (2020)

Central and Eastern Europe

Barclays (UK) sells Expobank (Russia) to Russian financier Igor Kim (2011)

KBC (Belgium) sells Kredytbank (Poland) to Santander (2012)

KBC (Belgium) sells its minority stake in Nova Ljubljanska Banka (Slovenia) to Slovenia (2012)

KBC (Belgium) sells Absolut Bank (Russia) to Russian investors (2012)

KBC (Belgium) sells KBC Banka (Serbia) to French Société Générale and Norwegian Telenor (2013)

National Bank of Greece (Greece) sells UBB (Bulgaria) to Belgian KBC (2016)

UniCredit (Italy) sells its controlling stake in Pekao (Poland) to local investors (2016)

Alpha Bank (Greece) sells Alpha Bank Srbija (Serbia) to Serbian AIK Banka (2017)

Cyprus Popular Bank (Cyprus) sells Marfin Bank (Serbia) to Expobank CZ (Czech Republic) (2017)

Eurobank (Greece) sells Bancpost (Romania) to Romanian Banca Transilvania (2017)

National Bank of Greece (Greece) sells its subsidiaries in Serbia to Hungarian OTP (2017)

Piraeus Bank (Greece) sells its unit in Serbia to Serbian Direktna Banka (2017)

Société Générale (France) sells most of its Central and Eastern European subsidiaries to Hungarian OTP (2017-2019)

Société Générale (France) sells Euro Bank (Poland) to Portuguese Millennium bcp (2018)

Bausparkasse Schwäbisch Hall (Germany) sells its stake in CMSS (Czech Republic) to Belgian KBC (2019)

Piraeus Bank (Greece) sells PBB (Bulgaria) to Greek Eurobank (2019)

Danske Bank (Denmark) sells its unit in Estonia to Estonian LHV Pank (2020)

Danske Bank (Denmark) sells its business in Latvia to Latvian Citadele Bank (2020)

Handelsbanken (Sweden) closes its branches in Germany and Poland (2020)

For more on bank consolidation in Central and Eastern Europe, see this report by Deloitte.

Western Europe

Barclays (UK) sells its retail branches in Italy to Italian Mediobanca (2015)

HSBC (UK) wants to sell its retail banking operation in France (2020)

Exceptions

BBVA (Spain) increases its stake in Garanti (Turkey) to 49.85% (2017)

Crédit Agricole (France) buys three small banks in Italy (2017) and another one in 2020.

KBC (Belgium) buys OTP Banka Slovensko (Slovakia) from Hungarian OTP (2020)

Chinese financial statistics

Financial Market Reports, includes outstanding bonds

Aggregate assets and liabilities of Financial Institutions (banks, insurers, securities institutions)

Monetary Policy Reports, includes breakdown of loans and deposits by borrower (households, enterprises and public entities, non-banking financial institutions, overseas), lending volumes according to size of banks, Aggregate funding to the real economy according to loans, bonds, other funding; balance of payments, foreign exchange reserves

Monetary Policy Instruments, including Open Market Operations (short term reverse repo), Required Reserves (required reserve ratios), Interest Rates, Lending Facilities

Interest rates and exchange rates