HSBC's pre-tax profit soars to $6.3b in third quarter

Business boom in Asia and restructuring drive help to boost banking giant's earnings

HONG KONG • Profits at banking giant HSBC leapt fivefold in the third quarter to US$4.6 billion (S$6.3 billion) as business booms in Asia and a restructuring drive bears fruit.

The massive jump in pre-tax profit came weeks after a new chief executive was unveiled as part of a management overhaul that has seen the London-based behemoth roar back from costly write-downs.

Mr John Flint, head of retail banking and wealth management, will take up his position in February when current head Stuart Gulliver steps down, and has said he wants to "accelerate the pace of change".

The Asia-focused firm has been on a recovery drive to streamline its business and slash costs since 2015, including laying off tens of thousands of staff. That came as part of wide-ranging restructuring moves during a troubled period for HSBC and the sector as a whole following the global financial crisis in 2008.

Reported pre-tax profit jumped to US$4.6 billion in the three months to end-September, compared with US$843 million over the same period in 2016.

Mr Gulliver said the bank had "maintained good momentum in the third quarter", with higher revenue across its main global businesses. "Our pivot to Asia is driving higher returns and lending growth, particularly in Hong Kong."

Net profit also rose from a loss of US$617 million in the third quarter of 2016 to US$2.96 billion. Profits in 2016 had been hit by the loss on sale of the bank's operations in Brazil, the bank said in its statement.

Analysts said the result was better than expected. "I think HSBC is one of the best international banking stocks at this moment," said Kingston Securities executive director of research Dickie Wong. "It's the third consecutive quarter earnings and revenue have increased."

The bank said it was on track to achieve annual cost savings of US$6 billion by the end of the year.

After some strong profitable years, HSBC earnings plunged in 2016 on huge write-downs and restructuring charges. Profits rebounded in the first half of this year.

The bank had in 2015 set out a plan to axe 50,000 jobs and exit non-core markets, as it also navigated a series of damaging probes into HSBC operations.

In 2015, HSBC was forced to apologise for "unacceptable" failings at its Swiss division following allegations that the unit helped rich clients hide billions from the taxman.

Also during Mr Gulliver's seven years at the helm, HSBC was fined along with other global banks by United States and British regulators for attempting to rig foreign exchange markets.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2017, with the headline 'HSBC's pre-tax profit soars to $6.3b in third quarter'. Print Edition | Subscribe