Paul Harris discusses HSBC
HSBC Holdings Plc slumped below its financial crisis closing low set more than a decade ago as pressures mount on several fronts, including political tension in Hong Kong, the fallout of the pandemic and renewed Brexit turmoil in the U.K.
The London-based bank’s U.K. shares on Friday slid below their closing low for March 2009, hitting 304p, as they extended this year’s plunge to almost 49 per cent. This marks HSBC’s lowest closing price in London since 1998.
Europe’s largest bank has been caught in a maelstrom of trouble over the past year amid unrest in its biggest market, Hong Kong. It also faces difficulties in navigating low interest rates and surging loan losses sparked by the global pandemic.
The fall in HSBC stock echoed a decline across London-listed banking shares. The FTSE 350 Banks index hit its lowest intraday level in almost 28 years as domestically-focused lenders including Barclays Plc, Lloyds Banking Group Plc and NatWest Group Plc all fell. These firms are facing the renewed prospect of a no-deal Brexit, threatening to push rates even lower amid the worst recession in centuries.
HSBC Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn, who took over as the bank’s permanent head in March, last month issued a stark warning about tough times ahead while reporting that first-half profit halved and predicting loan losses could swell to US$13 billion this year. Quinn said the bank would attempt to hasten a shakeup of its global operations, accelerating a further pivot into Asia as its European operations lose money.
Struggling to boost returns, the lender has come under fire both in the West and in China as it attempts to steer through political tension. HSBC was lambasted in the U.S. and the U.K. over its support for China’s new security legislation on Hong Kong, while state-backed Chinese media has voiced displeasure over the lender’s role in an American investigation of Huawei Technologies Co.
A jump in income from its markets business has failed to make up for broader shortcomings, unlike at some Wall Street and European competitors. HSBC stock has fallen more steeply than most big rivals this year, with Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. posting declines of 43 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively.
To make matters worse, HSBC sparked anger in Hong Kong earlier this year, alienating some of its most loyal investors, after scrapping its dividend in response to the pandemic. The bank is the worst performer on the benchmark Hang Seng index so far this year.