HSBC pre-tax profit up 32%, revenue down on volatility


HONG KONG: HSBC saw pre-tax profit surge 32 percent year-on-year in the third quarter on the back of lower fines, the banking giant announced Monday, but revenue dropped in the wake of Asian market volatility.

Group chief executive Stuart Gulliver said the performance was “resilient”, with pre-tax profit at $6.1 billion from $4.6 billion in the same quarter last year.

But revenue had been affected by stock market sell-offs in Asia and was down four percent at $15.1 billion.

HSBC announced in June it would cut its global workforce by up to 50,000 and sell off its businesses in Brazil and Turkey to cut costs.

“Our cost-reduction measures are beginning to have an impact on our cost base,” Gulliver said, but added that there was more to achieve.

The bank is also considering moving its headquarters from Britain but said there was a “considerable amount of work still to do” before a decision is made.

“Whilst the target for completion of the review was initially set as by the end of 2015, this is a self-imposed deadline that can be moved should the Board require further work to be performed,” the report said.

The third-quarter results beat analysts’ expectations, with some saying cost reductions are now reaping rewards.

“This time the earnings were pretty impressive,” said Jackson Wong, associate director for Simsen Financial Group.

“Their cost control had (previously) not really lived up to the target, but now it looks like they are finally in control.”

But Wong added it would be a long road before revenue growth resumes.

“When we look at growth, it’s still limited… hopefully if China’s economy picks up steam then it will help emerging markets in Asia.”

The Chinese economy grew at 6.9 percent between July and September this year, according to official figures, the slowest pace since the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2009.

But many analysts believe China’s actual growth is significantly lower.

HSBC shares were slightly down in early afternoon trade at HK$60.9, a drop of 0.16 percent.

Legal battles
HSBC’s rise in third-quarter pre-tax profits “reflected lower fines” and settlements, the report said.

But it added that adjusted operating expenses were up two percent year-on-year, partly due to investment in regulatory programs and compliance.

HSBC was fined late last year by US and British regulators for attempting to rig foreign exchange markets.

In February it was forced to apologize for “unacceptable” failings at its Swiss division following allegations the unit helped rich clients hide billions from the taxman.

The bank has faced a storm over claims that it helped clients from around the world dodge taxes on accounts containing 180 billion euros ($200 billion) between November 2006 and March 2007, in cases that are being investigated in several countries.

HSBC is also facing a French criminal probe over the affair.

It agreed in June to pay Geneva authorities 40 million Swiss francs ($41 million) to settle a money-laundering investigation at its Swiss private bank.

A former HSBC employee, who leaked documents alleging that the bank helped clients evade millions of dollars in taxes, said last week he would not attend his trial in Switzerland because he would not get a fair hearing.

Herve Falciani, a 43-year-old French-Italian national, is widely viewed as a whistleblower and hailed as a hero in countries where his leaked information is helping to net tax cheats. But the Swiss authorities remain intent on prosecuting him.



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