HSBC Profits Fall 29% But Stock Climbs 4.8%

Europe's largest bank soothed investors by announcing a share buyback of up to $2.5 billion in the second half of this year.
Matthew HellerAugust 4, 2016

HSBC reported that first-half profits dropped almost 29% but soothed investors by announcing a share buyback of up to $2.5 billion in the second half of this year.

For the first six months of 2016, Europe’s largest bank logged a pre-tax profit of $9.71 billion, down from $13.62 billion in the same period a year earlier and the $10 billion figure estimated by analysts in a Reuters survey.

Revenue in the first half was down 4% at $27.86 billion and profits fell across HSBC’s operating divisions, including retail banking (down 31.6%), commercial banking (down 4.5%), and investment banking and markets (down 16%). Private banking slid into the red.

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HSBC also said it had opted to “remove a timetable” for reaching its target of 10% return on equity by the end of next year. It posted a 7.4% ROE for the first half, down from 10.6% a year ago.

“The first half of 2016 was characterized by spikes of uncertainty which greatly impacted business and market confidence,” HSBC Group Chairman Douglas Flint said in a news release. “This was reflected in lower volumes of customer activity and higher levels of market volatility.”

He added that concern over China’s economy was “the most significant feature of the first quarter and, as this moderated, uncertainty over the upcoming U.K. referendum on membership of the European Union intensified.”

But with the proceeds from the sale of its Brazilian arm, the bank said it would execute the share buyback. It also said it would sustain its annual dividend at the current level for “the foreseeable future.”

“While economic conditions remain difficult, we are making progress in all of the areas within our control,” CEO Stuart Gulliver said. “In the meantime, our balanced business model, strong liquidity and strict cost management make us highly resilient.”

In trading Wednesday on the London stock exchange, HSBC shares rose 4.6%; in New York, the stock closed up 4.8%, at $33.70.

“The fall in profits is pretty much to be expected as indeed is lower guidance on ROE given nigh on zero interest rates,” Hugh Young, head of equities at Aberdeen Asset Management, told Reuters.