WHEN Manhattan Card was listed in June 1993, one of the most frequently asked questions was how Chase Manhattan Bank would treat its credit card operation in the region. That was because only one month earlier, Chase Manhattan Bank announced it was selling its credit card operation in Singapore to Overseas Union Bank. Chase Manhattan hurriedly assured investors in the card company that the operating environment was different between Singapore and Hong Kong which the bank said offered more lucrative business opportunities. It was said that the card company's partnership with CITIC Pacific was an indication that credit card operation in Hong Kong would be a long-term business. Such an alliance indicated that the bank was interested in developing the immature China market which would take quite a while to take off. Then in October the same year, the bank closed its retail banking business in Singapore. One month later, it closed its retail banking operation in Thailand, saying that Thailand 'does not fit strategically either on a regional or global basis'. Last month, the bank pruned some of its services in Thailand and moved them to Hong Kong. The bank said it was streamlining processing globally. It seems clear that the bank had intended to hive off all its so-called 'non-core' business outside the United States. By outright sale of its credit card operation in Hong Kong at a booming time was too much of a waste. Betting the credit card market would flourish only in an affluent economy, nourishing it for two years and selling it generated a much better rate of return on investment for the parent bank. The Chase Manhattan Bank retail business domain lies in the US, in particular New York State. It runs minor consumer banking operations in Panama, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong. Its wholesale banking, serving corporate clients and multinationals, is more global in nature. Asia contributed 11 per cent of its revenues in 1994. While S G Warburg will act as a financial adviser to the deal convincing potential buyers to buy the card operation at about 13 times price-earning ratio, Chase may need to give a more detailed explanation of its plans for Asia. The market does not like shocks.