HSBC warns of choppy markets as profits fall short

Feb 24 2014, 21:06 IST
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HSBC increased its bonus pool for staff by 6 percent to $3.9 billion last year. Reuters HSBC increased its bonus pool for staff by 6 percent to $3.9 billion last year. Reuters
SummaryHSBC missed market expectations with a 9 percent increase in annual profit...

HSBC missed market expectations with a 9 percent increase in annual profit and warned of greater volatility in emerging markets this year, sending shares in Europe's biggest bank to a 15-month low.

HSBC, which is based in London but made two thirds of last year's profit in Asia, has axed more than 40,000 jobs and sold or closed 60 businesses over the past three years to cut costs, but has not yet reached its cost efficiency and profitability targets.

"Having made good headway in pulling out of low-quality businesses, they are now facing the headwinds of emerging markets," said Chris Wheeler, an analyst at Mediobanca. "It's not a disaster, but they are paddling hard to make any progress."

Wheeler has a "recommendation on HSBC shares.

HSBC shares were down 3.4 percent at 632 pence by 1215 GMT, the weakest performer in a flat European banks index. They fell to 617p, their lowest since November 2012, and have underperformed rivals this year due to HSBC's greater exposure to markets in Asia, the Middle East and South America.

HSBC said it increased its bonus pool for staff by 6 percent to $3.9 billion last year, and lifted Gulliver's pay, including salary and bonuses, to $8 million from $7.5 million.

The increase comes despite pressure on banks to rein in big bonuses that many blame for fuelling the risk-taking that led to the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

HSBC said it would start paying 665 top staff a new quarterly allowance - either in cash or deferred shares - effectively increasing the amount of their fixed pay to meet a new EU law capping bonuses at 200 percent of salary.

Gulliver said major shareholders supported the plan, but that the EU rules had made pay structures more complex and he hoped the UK government will be successful with a legal challenge to the move.

"We had a compensation plan here that the shareholders liked but sadly because of the EU directive we've had to change. This isn't something we would have wanted to do... It's much more complicated," Gulliver told reporters on a conference call.

Under the new structure, senior bankers will be guaranteed more pay, but the maximum they can get will be reduced. Gulliver will be guaranteed $4.2 million, up from $2.5 million before, and can earn up to $11.4 million, down from $13.8 million.

CAPITAL BUILD-UP

Gulliver is under pressure to show how HSBC can replace income lost from the sale of U.S. businesses

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