Monday, 1 August 2011

HSBC sells 195 New York branches for $1bn

The disposal of 195 branches to First Niagara Bank was announced less than 12 hours before the bank publishes its financial results for the first half of the year, which are forecast to show a pre-tax profit of $10.9bn.
Stuart Gulliver, HSBC chief executive, is expected to give investors and analysts more details on how he intends to reduce costs at the bank by between $2.5bn and $3.5bn over the next three years.
The sale of the New York branches is a further sign of Mr Gulliver's determination to get rid of businesses not considered core to the bank's future.
HSBC recently sold its Russian business and further sales of international retail banking businesses are considered likely, though the bank has ruled out selling any of its UK, French or German operations.
The profit figure, which means HSBC made nearly $1.7bn of profit in each of the first months of the year, is slightly down on the same period in 2010 when the bank reported a before-tax profit of $11.1bn.

The results mark the first performance figures from the bank since Mr Gulliver, who became chief executive at the start of the year, presented a strategic review of the company.

HSBC currently employs 335,000 staff around the world and the redundancies would equal about 3pc of its total workforce.

Mr Gulliver wants to reduce HSBC’s cost income ratio to between 48pc to 52pc. In the second half of last year the bank reported a cost income ratio of 60pc and in the first six months of this year analysts at Credit Suisse estimate this has fallen to 57pc.

Profits from HSBC’s personal financial services business are forecast to have more than doubled to $3.2bn compared with the same period in 2010, largely as a result of reduced losses in the bank’s North America business, which lost $1.5bn in the first half of last year.

Investors will be looking particularly closely at what HSBC says about conditions in the US as the economic recovery shows signs of stalling and Credit Suisse expects increased foreclosures to hit the value of its US assets.

Global banking markets, HSBC’s investment banking division, is expected to have recorded about a £1bn fall in profits compared with the first six months of 2010 at £4.6bn.

HSBC’s results kick off a crucial week for the UK banking industry with Barclays, Standard Chartered, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland all reporting their financial results for the first half.

The City will be watching closely to see what the banks’ results say about the UK economy. Partially state-owned banks Lloyds and RBS are both expected to remain loss-making, losing before tax close to £3bn and £1bn respectively.

Like HSBC, Lloyds recently announced a strategic overhaul as new chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio gets to grips with turning round the performance of Britain’s largest retail bank.

In June, Lloyds provoked workers’ union outrage after it said it would be cutting a further 15,000 jobs, taking the total number of redundancies at the bank since its rescue by the taxpayer to about 40,000.

The cuts at HSBC are unlikely to fall heavily on the UK as the bank has said it remains committed to the British market. However, jobs in other countries look less secure.

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