China may head the investment priority list for many chief executives but it seems not all minority shareholders are as confident the mainland should be the top target. Several investors at an informal shareholders meeting of HSBC Holdings yesterday questioned whether the bank might have gone too far with costly acquisitions last year. 'I think you should not be too optimistic about the China market,' advised one woman during the meeting hosted by group chief executive Stephen Green. 'It's not easy to compete in the mainland banking market. The market is competitive, with not only HSBC but banks in the US, Britain and Germany going there.' Another investor expressed doubts about the cost of the bank's 19.9 per cent stakes in the Bank of Communications and Ping An Insurance (Group). 'HSBC has bought the stakes in Bank of Communications and Ping An Insurance at a price higher than market average. I wonder if the executives have calculated the risks involved in these mainland investments,' the man asked. This was echoed by an elderly shareholder. 'Now I am a bit worried about HSBC's buying plans in China, which is an emerging market full of uncertainties because the government policies change all the time,' he said. 'I am not sure if the directors have assessed the risk levels in the market. I am worried that they may rush to buy in China just because other companies are buying there.' But Mr Green defended the China expansion plans as reasonable and needed for the future growth of the bank. 'There is no investment without risk. We have carefully assessed all the risks and returns of investment in China and we are comfortable with our investment in the country,' Mr Green said. 'We believe in 10 years or 20 years time, China is going to be a very exciting market which would have a lot of demand for sophisticated banking, investment and insurance services.' He said this was why HSBC had to buy into financial institutions to ensure it had a platform for banking, insurance and fund management business in the mainland. HSBC shareholders yesterday were not only concerned with business. Apart from the post-meeting rush for dim sum, many gave a warm farewell to Asia Pacific chairman David Eldon, who retired after 37 years with the bank. 'I want to give thanks from the bottom of my heart to Mr Eldon, Mr Green and group chairman John Bond. The trio added together would have served the bank for 100 years and have safeguarded benefits for the shareholders due to their extra efforts,' said a loyal shareholder Mr Ng.