A glimpse may have been offered this week into key themes likely to emerge in the accounts of Hong Kong's biggest lender, HSBC Corp, when it unveils its 2001 results on March 4. Reflecting the caution and prudence for which the group is known, HSBC Canada's year-end accounts released on Tuesday showed provisions against credit losses of US$92 million - more than double the charge taken in 2000. A similar big increase in provisioning charges may be expected at a holdings level in the HSBC accounts, as well as in subsidiary HSBC Corp's results - which mainly reflect the group's Hong Kong operations - when they are released next month. Helping shore up bottomline profit in the Canadian operation - up 21.9 per cent to C$206 million (about HK$1 billion) for the year - was a vigorous drive to contain costs, also likely to be on parade in the group accounts next month. Non-interest expenses were down 5 per cent, or C$38 million, to C$742 million, helped lower by payroll and bonus cuts. Interest expense was down C$130 million, or 12 per cent, to C$938 million. The cost-income ratio was down from 65.2 per cent to 59.3 per cent. Those cost savings helped offset a sharp fall in fees and charges from declining capital market activities.