Monday, August 3, 2009

HSBC global profits halve to $5bn

Banking group HSBC saw pre-tax profits halve to $5bn (£2.98bn) in the first six months of 2009.


Rising bad debts in the US, Europe and Asia forced it to write-off $13.9bn - 39% more than the same period in 2008.

Earlier Barclays also announced pre-tax half-year profits of £2.98bn boosted by its investment banking arm.

HSBC is in the process of closing most of its retail lending operations in the US, having taken hefty losses from mortgages which went unpaid.

Its US consumer lending business, Household International, which is being wound down after being devastated by the credit crunch, saw a $2.9bn pre-tax loss for the period.

But HSBC gained from record investment banking profits of $6.3bn during the first half of the year.

BBC business editor Robert Peston said its profits were a story of "resilience in the face of extraordinary losses on loans".

"Of all the big banks in the US and UK, HSBC is the one that comes closest to being able to claim - without stretching credibility too much - that it's a proper commercial operation, not too reliant on finance or insurance from taxpayers," he said.

Unlike many of its peers, HSBC has not had to go to governments for extra cash.

It decided instead to ask existing shareholders for more money through a rights issue in April, which raised $17.8bn.


The bank said results were better than it had expected in an "unprecedented" economic climate.

Chairman Stephen Green added it was likely that "we have passed, or are about to pass" the bottom of the cycle in financial markets.

But he said: "The timing, shape and scale of any recovery in the wider economy remains highly uncertain."

HSBC has tried to increase its share of the the UK mortgage market, as rivals remain less willing to lend, or have withdrawn altogether.

The bank has committed £15bn for new mortgage lending in the UK - and said that £6.7bn had been lent during the first half of the year.

Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland will report their half-year results later this week.