HSBC braces itself for a bumpy ride as profits lower than expected
HSBC has reported worse-than-expected pre-tax profits, as it braces itself for a “bumpier” ride amid slowing economic growth in China. Europe’s largest bank saw annual pre-tax profits rise 1% to 18.9 billion dollars (£13.2 billion), but fell short of analyst expectations of 21.8 billion US dollars (£15.2 billion).
The lender came in shy of full-year predictions after posting a fourth quarter loss of 858 million US dollars (£604 million).
The bank – which gets a large slice of its profits from Asia – said its full-year performance was hampered by “seismic shifts” in the global economy, triggered by a sharp drop in oil prices, slowing economic growth in China and low interest rates in developed economies.
Group chairman Douglas Flint said the challenges caused by an economic slowdown in China were likely to persist, stating it “will undoubtedly contribute to a bumpier financial environment”.
The bank said its adjusted revenue had risen by 1% from 57.2 billion US dollars (£40 billion) to 57.7 billion US dollars (£40.4 billion).
HSBC highlighted progress on reducing the group’s RWAs (risk-weighted assets), new business in Brazil and gaining momentum in Asia, but the bank said it was operating in “a difficult market environment”.
There have been a string of developments at the bank this year, including hints by chief executive Stuart Gulliver that he may step down in two years’ time.
After a lengthy review HSBC announced it will keep its headquarters in the UK, although the good news was tempered soon afterwards by a warning that the bank would move about 1,000 jobs from London to Paris in the event of Britain leaving the EU.
Commenting on the latest results, Mr Gulliver said: “Targeted investment, prudent lending and our diversified, universal banking business model helped us achieve revenue growth in a difficult market environment, whilst also reducing risk-weighted assets.
“Strict cost management slowed cost growth and our cautious approach to credit helped keep loan impairment charges low.
“We made a good start in implementing the plans that we announced at our Investor Update in June. Delivering against these plans remains our primary focus.”
HSBC chairman Douglas Flint said the results were “broadly satisfactory”.
HSBC rolled back its decision to enforce a pay freeze on staff at the beginning of February, stating it would fund pay rises for 2015 from its variable bonus pool for 2016 after ”listening to feedback”.