HSBC share price: Bank releases full-year results
HSBC Holdings Plc (LON:HSBA) today released its financial report for 2014. Highlights from the report provided below, with more to follow:
· Reported profit before tax (‘PBT’) down 17% in 2014 at US$18,680m, compared with US$22,565m in 2013. This primarily reflected lower business disposal and reclassification gains and the negative effect, on both revenue and costs, of significant items including fines, settlements, UK customer redress and associated provisions.
· Adjusted PBT was broadly unchanged in 2014 at US$22,829m and excludes the year-on-year effects of foreign currency translation and significant items, compared with US$22,981m in 2013.
· Earnings per share and dividends per share in respect of the year were US$0.69 and US$0.50 respectively, compared with US$0.84 and US$0.49 for 2013.
· Return on equity lower at 7.3%, compared with 9.2% in 2013.
· Stable revenue – 2014 adjusted revenue of US$62,002m compared with US$61,854m in 2013, underpinned by growth in Commercial Banking, notably in our home markets of Hong Kong and the UK.
· Loan impairment charges were lower reflecting the current economic environment and the changes we have made to our portfolio since 2011.
· Higher 2014 operating expenses – adjusted operating expenses in 2014 were US$37,854m, up 6.1% from US$35,682m in 2013, due to increased regulatory and compliance costs, inflationary pressures and investment in strategic initiatives to support growth.
· Capital – the common equity tier 1 capital ratio (CRD IV transitional basis) was 10.9% at 31 December 2014, up from 10.8% at 31 December 2013.
**Stuart Gulliver, Group Chief Executive said:** “2014 was a challenging year in which we continued to work hard to improve business performance while managing the impact of a higher operating cost base. Profits disappointed, although a tough fourth quarter masked some of the progress made over the preceding three quarters. Many of the challenging aspects of the fourth quarter results were common to the industry as a whole. In spite of this, there were a number of encouraging signs, particularly in Commercial Banking, Payments & Cash Management and renminbi products and services. We were also able to continue to grow the dividend.”
**Statement by Douglas Flint, Group Chairman**
HSBC’s performance in 2014 reflected another year of consolidation in the reshaping and strengthening of the Group against a backdrop of geopolitical and economic headwinds, many of which could not have been foreseen at the outset of the year.
As economic activity in much of the world failed to reach the levels required to rebuild sustainable consumer confidence and prompt renewed investment expenditure, governments most impacted expanded their stimulus measures and the major central banks maintained interest rates at their unprecedented low levels. Concerns over deflationary trends, particularly in the eurozone, grew. Although China delivered growth which comfortably surpassed all other major economies, expectations of slower growth in the future weighed heavily on market sentiment and contributed to significant commodity price falls and further curtailment of global investment spending.
Unsurprisingly in this environment, revenue growth opportunities were strongest in our Asian businesses, with expansion in lending and debt capital financing. Cost progression continued globally in large part to implement regulatory change and enhance risk controls, notably around financial system integrity and conduct. Streamlining initiatives could only partly offset this cost expansion. Further customer redress costs and regulatory penalties around past failings reinforced the Board’s continuing commitment to prioritise whatever further investment in systems and controls is necessary to mitigate future repetition.
It is clear now that societal, regulatory and public policy expectations of our industry are changing its long-term cost structure. Technological advancements around data analytics, including ‘big data’, are providing much more sophisticated tools to enhance our capabilities to protect the financial system from bad actors. Also, as more and more customers choose to transact online and through mobile devices, we are making the necessary investment to protect ourselves and our customers from cyber threats. Building the required analytical capabilities entails considerable investment in systems and in maintaining customer data which is accurate and up to date. Reconfiguring customer and transactional data to the digital age is no small endeavour given legacy systems and a multiplicity of historical data standards globally. The benefits, however, of enhanced customer due diligence capabilities and greater systems security essentially go to the core of our systemic role and allow us to be more proactive in fulfilling that role as a key gatekeeper to the financial system.
As our industry reshapes in response to public policy and regulatory directives, we now need to demonstrate, through clarity of our business model, the value to society of our scale and diversification. We must never forget that investors have choices where to invest and individuals have choices where to make their careers. Thus it is essential that we can demonstrate a positive contribution to the societies we serve in order to bolster the business friendly environment that all agree is essential for economic growth and prosperity.
For 150 years HSBC has been following trade and investment flows to serve customers as they fulfil their financial ambitions. In a world which has moved from being interconnected to being interdependent, our business model is increasingly relevant to companies of all sizes and to individuals whose financial future is linked to economic activity in multiple countries.
This can be seen most markedly in our Commercial Banking business, which delivered a record year buoyed by the expansion of supply chain management solutions and increasing cross-border payment flows. Our network coverage of the countries which originate more than 85% of the world’s payment activity drives this key element of our business model. On the investment side, throughout our network we saw corporate flows continuing to target the higher growth emerging markets. At the same time, growth in outward investment from mainland China accelerated as its major companies sought diversification and access to both skill bases and markets. These trends played to HSBC’s scale and presence in the key financial centres, allowing us to support customers with debt and equity financing solutions, offering tailored liquidity and transactional banking support and providing risk management solutions primarily against our clients’ interest rate and foreign exchange exposures. Success was evidenced by growing recognition in industry awards, the most important of which are referred to in the Group Chief Executive’s Review. Finally, our Retail Banking and Wealth Management business continued its journey to build a sustainable customer focused business model, completing the removal of formulaic links between product sales and performance-related pay of our staff, and expanding our digital and mobile offerings.
**Performance in 2014:** Profit before tax of US$18.7bn on a reported basis was US$3.9bn or 17% lower than that achieved in 2013. This primarily reflected lower business disposal and reclassification gains and the negative effect, on both revenue and costs, of significant items including fines, settlements, UK customer redress and associated provisions. On the adjusted basis that is one of the key metrics used to assess current year management and business performance, profit before tax was US$22.8bn, broadly in line with 2013 on a comparable basis.
Earnings per share were US$0.69, against US$0.84 in 2013. The Group’s capital position remained strong with the transitional common equity tier 1 ratio standing at 10.9% at the end of the year, compared with 10.8% 12 months earlier, and our end point ratio at 11.1% compared with 10.9%. Based on this capital strength and the Group’s capital generating capabilities, the Board approved a fourth interim dividend in respect of 2014 of US$0.20 per share, taking the total dividends in respect of the year to US$0.50 per share (US$9.6bn, US$0.4bn higher than in respect of 2013).
Taking into account this financial performance, together with the further progress made in reshaping the Group, responding to regulatory change and implementing Global Standards, the Board considered executive management to have made good progress during 2014 towards strengthening HSBC’s long-term competitive position. The Group Chief Executive’s Review analyses in detail the important benchmarks and highlights of 2014.
**Regulatory landscape becomes clearer but still much to do:** A great deal of progress was made during 2014 to finalise the framework under which globally systemic banks like HSBC will be required to operate when it is fully implemented. This clarity is essential if we are to be able to position our global businesses to meet the return expectations of those who invest in us within an acceptable risk appetite.
In particular, major progress was made in addressing the challenge of ‘too big to fail’, largely through finalising proposals to augment existing loss absorbing capacity with ‘bail-inable’ debt and through greater definition of how resolution frameworks would operate in practice. In both cases, this involved the critical issue of how to address cross-border implications and home and host country regulatory responsibilities.
There is, however, still much to complete. The regulatory reform agenda for 2015 is very full with pending public policy decisions, regulatory consultations and impact studies in areas of far reaching influence to the structure of our industry. These include the conclusion of structural separation deliberations in Europe, further work on so called ‘shadow banking’ including identifying non-bank systemically important institutions, addressing the resolution framework for central counterparties, finalising the calibration of the leverage ratio, calibrating the quantum of total loss absorbing capacity to be raised and settling the disposition of that capacity within global groups.
In addition, further work will be undertaken on utilising standardised risk weights to overcome regulatory loss of confidence in internally modelled capital measures and a ‘fundamental review of the trading book’ is also underway within the regulatory community to look again at capital support for this activity. These measures, which in aggregate are designed to make the industry structurally more stable, will take the next five or so years to implement, an indication of the scale of the transformation to be completed.
During 2014, the UK government also confirmed the permanence of the UK bank levy. This was introduced in 2010, in part to address the burden borne by taxpayers from failures during the global financial crisis; in 2014, the cost to HSBC of the levy was US$1.1bn, an increase of US$0.2bn over 2013. 58% of the levy we pay does not relate to our UK banking activity.
**Rebuilding trust:** Restoration of trust in our industry remains a significant challenge as further misdeeds are uncovered but it is a challenge we must meet successfully. We owe this not just to society but to our staff to ensure they can be rightly proud of the organisation to which they have committed their careers. When commentators extrapolate instances of control failure or individual misconduct to question the culture of the firm it strikes painfully at the heart of our identity.
**Swiss Private Bank:** The recent disclosures around unacceptable historical practices and behaviour within the Swiss private bank remind us of how much there still is to do and how far society’s expectations have changed in terms of banks’ responsibilities. They are also a reminder of the need for constant vigilance over the effectiveness of our controls and the imperative to embed a robust and ethical compliance culture.
We deeply regret and apologise for the conduct and compliance failures highlighted which were in contravention of our own policies as well as expectations of us.
In response to, and in parallel with, the tax investigations prompted by the data theft more than eight years ago, we have been completely overhauling our private banking business, putting the entire customer base through enhanced due diligence and tax transparency filters. Our Swiss Private Bank customer base and the countries we serve are now both about one‑third of the size they were in 2007. In addition, HSBC is already working to implement the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard and other measures to foster greater transparency. We cannot change the past. But, looking to the future, we can and must reinforce controls and provide demonstrable evidence of their effectiveness. This forms part of our commitment to Global Standards, to ensure that we will never knowingly do business with counterparties seeking to evade taxes or use the financial system to commit financial crime.
**Banking standards:** More broadly, following the publication in 2013 of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, considerable progress has been made in giving effect to its recommendations. The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act of 2013 provided greater clarity on the accountabilities and responsibilities of management and the Board. We welcome the appointment of Dame Colette Bowe to lead the Banking Standards Review Council and have committed to support her fully in its work. The current Fair and Effective Markets Review being conducted by the Bank of England, Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority is an extremely timely and important exercise to re-establish the integrity of wholesale financial markets.
In terms of our own governance of these areas, the Conduct & Values Committee of the Board that we created at the beginning of 2014 to focus on behavioural issues has established itself firmly as the central support to the Board in these important areas.
**Board changes:** Since we reported at the interim stage we have taken further steps to augment the skills and experience within the Board and to address succession to key roles.
On 1 January 2015, Phillip Ameen joined the Board and the Group Audit Committee as an independent non-executive Director. Phil was formerly Vice President, Comptroller and Principal Accounting Officer of General Electric Corp. He brings with him extensive financial and accounting experience gained in one of the world’s leading international companies as well as a depth of technical knowledge from his long service in the accounting standard setting world. As a serving Director on HSBC’s US businesses he also brings further detailed insight to Group Board discussions and enhances the strong links that already exist between the Group Board and its major subsidiaries.
Sir Simon Robertson had previously indicated his intention to retire from the Board at the upcoming AGM. I am delighted to report that Simon has agreed to stay on for at least a further year as Deputy Chairman. He has been a considerable support to me and to Stuart Gulliver, in addition to his role leading the non-executives, and we are all delighted that we shall continue to benefit from his wisdom and experience.
**150th anniversary:** 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of our founding back in Hong Kong and Shanghai as a small regional bank focused on trade and investment. All of us within HSBC owe a huge debt of gratitude and respect to our forebears who charted the course that has taken HSBC to one of the most important institutions serving the financial needs of this inter-dependent world.
**Outlook:** It is impossible not to reflect on the very broad range of uncertainties and challenges to be addressed in 2015 and beyond, most of which are outside our control, particularly against a backdrop of patchy economic recovery and limited policy ammunition. Unexpected outcomes arising from current geopolitical tensions, eurozone membership uncertainties, political changes, currency and commodity price realignments, interest rate moves and the effectiveness of central banks’ unconventional policies, to name but a few, all could materially affect economic conditions and confidence around investment and consumption decisions. One economic uncertainty stands out for a major financial institution headquartered in the UK, that of continuing UK membership of the EU. Today, we publish a major research study which concludes that working to complete the Single Market in services and reforming the EU to make it more competitive are far less risky than going it alone, given the importance of EU markets to British trade.
There are also many underlying positive trends that shape our thinking about the coming year. We are very encouraged by the trends in outward investment from China, the potential for further liberalisation and internationalisation of the renminbi and the reshaping of the Chinese economy from export dependence to domestic consumption. We are positive on the opportunities that will arise from Capital Markets Union within Europe and the declared focus of the incoming Commission on growth and jobs. The strength of the US economy and the benefits of lower oil prices should be positive drivers of growth. There is much to be gained from successful negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Current attention on funding infrastructure investment globally is potentially of huge significance.
Finally, on behalf of the Board, I want again to express our thanks and gratitude to our 266,000 colleagues around the world who worked determinedly in 2014 to build an HSBC fit for the next 150 years.
As of 08:34 GMT, Monday, 23 February, HSBC Holdings plc share price is 606.20p.
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