HSBC reports surprise pre-tax profit fall

HSBC reports surprise pre-tax profit fall

HSBC reports surprise pre-tax profit fall

Chief executive John Flint, reporting his first results since taking over from Stuart Gulliver, said growth opportunities meant this was likely to be the only share buyback this year.

"We also made strategic hires in our securities joint venture in mainland China, and invested to enhance our digital capabilities in all our global businesses". Analysts at UBS said they had expected it to buy back twice as many shares.

The group meanwhile announced that it meant to initiate e a share buyback of up to $2 billion, while cautioning that it expects this to be the only share buyback for the current year, "in light of the growth opportunities that we now see".

Europe's largest banks by assets posted profits before tax of $4.8 billion in the first three months of 2018, down by 4 percent, compared with the same period a year ago, according to the bank's statement released on Friday.

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Analysts had previously expected the bank to report a pre-tax profit of $5.7bn. Revenues rose 6% year-on-year to $13.7bn but a 13% increase in reported operating expenses to $9.4bn dragged profits down.

HSBC CEO JOHN FLINT, attributing the rise in costs to investment in its retail banking businesses in its core markets of Britain and China.

Among HSBC's main four business lines, profit from retail, commercial and private banking rose, while earnings at the investment banking fell, largely because of a 10% drop in revenue from trading.

HSBC - which made over 75% of its profits in Asia in 2017 - plans to grow its retail and corporate banking business in the region by hiring thousands of staff and opening new branches, a plan that has suffered some setbacks amid China's slowing growth. HSBC seeks to make it its gateway to the world's second-largest economy. In 1Q18, we increased investment in Retail Banking and Wealth Management to further grow our market share in the United Kingdom and mainland China.

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Europe's biggest bank by assets, which earns most of its profits in Asia, has long struggled to hit its cost control targets.

The biggest question for HSBC investors looking forward is what strategy Mr Flint will adopt to boost growth after years of restructuring and shrinking.

"There is no straightforward inorganic solution, there's no quick fix", he said.

Return on equity for the bank fell compared with the same quarter previous year, from 8 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

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