HSBC shares set to fall in Hong Kong after profits miss forecasts

Analysts say slowdown in key growth markets risks further restraining earnings growth

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 August, 2013, 11:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 2:43am

Asian investors are poised to sell HSBC stock when Hong Kong markets open this morning, despite an insistence from the global banking giant that its restructuring efforts remain firmly on track with annual cost savings running ahead of target.

Analysts say a slowdown in key growth markets to which the bank is most exposed risks restraining earnings growth further, after it reported first half pre-tax profits of US$14.1 billion - up 10 per cent on the same period a year ago, but short of the US$14.6 billion market consensus forecast.

HSBC Group chief executive Stuart Gulliver said in a statement that the bank had made sustainable cost savings of US$4.1 billion since the start of 2011, exceeding the target that had originally been set for the end of 2013.

"In May 2013, we set out our plans for the next phase of delivering our strategy, covering the period from 2014 to 2016. Our strategic direction is unchanged and our priorities are clear," said Gulliver, who is two and a half years into a restructuring plan that has cut more than 46,000 jobs and seen the bank announce plans to exit 54 businesses.

HSBC's London-listed stock tumbled around 5 per cent after the announcement. The shares had rallied around 15 per cent over the course of the previous six weeks to within a whisker of the near five-year high it had hit in May. The bank's Hong Kong stock closed up around 0.8 per cent yesterday before the results.

Gulliver's statement conceded that muted global economic growth and regulatory changes "continued to impact available returns" but said the bank's repositioning into areas of comparative strength would allow it to meet the challenges it faced.

"Despite slower growth in the short term, the long term economic trends remain intact. The global economy will continue to rebalance towards the faster-growing markets and trade and capital flows will continue to expand," Gulliver said.

Analysts are concerned though that slower growth in China - which HSBC itself is forecasting - will weigh heavily on hitherto fast-growing emerging markets levered to the mainland.

Some 65.8 per cent of the group's pre-tax profits came from Hong Kong and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region.