HSBC tames costs even as profit rises 16%

The HSBC building in Hong Kong. The bank's nine-month figure narrowed to negative 1.6 per cent, it said yesterday, compared to negative 5.6 per cent in the first half of the year, indicating HSBC managed to increase revenue faster than costs in the t
The HSBC building in Hong Kong. The bank's nine-month figure narrowed to negative 1.6 per cent, it said yesterday, compared to negative 5.6 per cent in the first half of the year, indicating HSBC managed to increase revenue faster than costs in the third quarter. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
The HSBC building in Hong Kong. The bank's nine-month figure narrowed to negative 1.6 per cent, it said yesterday, compared to negative 5.6 per cent in the first half of the year, indicating HSBC managed to increase revenue faster than costs in the t
Mr John Flint became HSBC's chief executive officer in February.

CEO Flint delivers revenue gains that outpaced cost increases

HONG KONG • HSBC chief executive officer John Flint, in charge of Europe's biggest bank since February, has finally delivered the kind of growth that investors were waiting for.

Analysts waiting for the London-based bank's third-quarter earnings were mainly focused on whether HSBC would deliver revenue gains that outpaced cost increases, or what is known as "positive jaws".

The bank's nine-month figure narrowed to negative 1.6 per cent, it said yesterday, compared to negative 5.6 per cent in the first half of the year, indicating HSBC managed to increase revenue faster than costs in the third quarter.

Jaws "needs to be positive in order for management to remain on track with 2018 guidance", Deutsche Bank analyst David Lock wrote in a note to investors earlier this month.

The bank said in an investor presentation also released yesterday that it was on track to deliver positive jaws for the year, based on current operating trends.

The result bolsters Mr Flint's case that he can deliver profit growth for HSBC while spending billions of dollars on an expansion into key Asian markets and technology upgrades. The lender's shares have slumped this year, and last week fell to their lowest level in nearly two years.

Adjusted pretax profit, which excludes one-time items, climbed 16 per cent to US$6.19 billion (S$8.55 billion) in the third quarter, compared with the US$5.73 billion average estimate of 11 analysts compiled by the bank. Adjusted revenue increased 9 per cent to US$13.84 billion, compared with the US$13.68 billion average estimate surveyed by HSBC.

Mr Flint is pushing his strategy along with chairman Mark Tucker, who joined the bank late last year. The new team wants to build up the bank's presence in Hong Kong and China's Pearl River Delta region. The lender is planning a hiring spree for its Asian wealth management business.

Pretax profit at HSBC's global banking and markets unit increased 21 per cent to US$1.8 billion, compared with the US$1.6 billion average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. According to people familiar with the matter, former top JPMorgan Chase banker Greg Guyett is joining the firm to jointly run the division.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2018, with the headline 'HSBC tames costs even as profit rises 16%'. Print Edition | Subscribe