HSBC Holdings PLC will exit the U.S. credit card business whether it finds a buyer for its $33 billion card portfolio here or not.

The London-based banking conglomerate said last month that it was considering selling off its card operations here because the business does not mesh with its focus of serving wealthy individuals and internationally minded commercial customers. On Monday, Reuters reported that HSBC Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver told reporters at a World Economic Forum conference in Jakarta that if it cannot find a buyer, HSBC intends to put the card business "into rundown."

"We need to change the shape of our business," Gulliver said.

Experts have estimated that HSBC could fetch a 12.5% premium on the portfolio, which consists private-label, co-branded and affinity cards. Some observers have suggested that major players such as Capital One Financial Corp., Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., could be interested in parts of the portfolio. Others have speculated that the card assets could draw interest from foreign banks looking to establish a stronger retail presence in the U.S.

As part of its strategic review, HSBC has also said it is considering selling off retail branches that are outside of major metropolitan markets.