HSBC record annual profits dented by China woes


Higher interest rates helped HSBC achieve record annual profits last year but the sum was dented by the economic slowdown in its biggest growth market.

Europe’s largest lender, which is UK based but largely Asia focused, reported pre-tax profits of $30.3bn (£24bn) for 2023 – a 78% rise on 2022’s sum.

While much of that can be attributed to rising rates, a consequence of central bank action to tackle inflation peaking during the year, HSBC also admitted it was cautious on the loan growth outlook over the first half of 2024.

While that can be party attributed to the higher rates situation in Europe, HSBC is also heavily exposed to the problems in the world’s second-largest economy.

While China recovered initially from the delayed easing of COVID restrictions, a debt crisis in the real estate sector has spread to hit investment and spending more widely.

At the same time, its powerhouse manufacturing sector has also experienced a big drop in demand due to the cooling in the global economy.

HSBC’s bottom line failed to meet analysts’ expectations.

The HSBC HQ is shown at London's Canary Wharf. Pic: AP
HSBC HQ at London’s Canary Wharf. Pic: AP

The profit figure was dented by a $3bn writedown on its stake in China’s Bank of Communications as lenders across China are hit by widening loan losses and a crackdown on credit ordered by the authorities to tackle debt piles.

Despite the challenges, HSBC’s performance allowed the bank to raise its bonus pool and shareholder rewards.

It announced a $2bn share buyback and total dividends for 2023 of $0.61 per share.

HSBC added that it would consider a special dividend of $0.21 per share in the first half of 2024 once it had completed the disposal of its business in Canada.

HSBC also revealed a new variable pay scheme for junior and middle management staff.

It was the third London-listed lender to update on its 2023 progress.

NatWest reported a 20% increase in profits last week despite troubles behind the scenes including the fallout from the Nigel Farage debanking scandal that forced out then chief executive Dame Alison Rose.

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Big challenges for all European banks

Barclays‘ earnings were hit by a weaker performance from its investment banking arm.

It responded to investor concerns over its reliance on that division by announcing a shake up of its operations.

HSBC’s Hong Kong-traded shares were 4% down.

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Commenting on its performance, chief executive Noel Quinn said: “Our record profit performance in 2023 enabled us to reward our shareholders with our highest full-year dividend since 2008, three share buy-backs last year totalling $7bn, and a further share buy-back of up to $2bn.

“This reflected four years of hard work and the strength of our balance sheet in a higher interest rate environment.”

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