HSBC makes £13.8bn profits

HSBC sign
HSBC’s annual profits rose 15% to £13.8bn ($21.9bn) in what it called a year of “major progress”.

The bank said that 2011 was a year of major progress for HSBC

The bank is the biggest in Europe and makes about 90% of its profits outside the UK.

HSBC’s UK profits were 17.2% higher than last year at £1.5bn.

The bank singled out its “strong performance” in faster-growing markets, with revenue up 12% in Asia and Latin America, as well as in the Middle East and North Africa.

It said these regions now accounted for 49% of group revenue. It also said 2011 was a record for commercial banking.

Profit before tax in that division was up 31% at almost £5bn.

Also helping the headline profit figure was a rise of £2.5bn in the value of its debt.

The investment banking division fared less well. Profits there fell 24% to £15bn as a result of the eurozone crisis.

UK banking

The UK division met its Project Merlin lending targets, set by the government.

It lent £49.4bn to businesses, well above its target of £38.8bn, with £11.9bn going to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

HSBC also increased mortgage lending by 12% to £13.2bn and expects to increase that to £15bn this year, with £3bn earmarked for first-time buyers.

Like other UK banks, HSBC has faced claims over mis-sold payment protection insurance – policies which were sold to maintain loan repayments in the event of illness or redundancy.

But in many cases, the insurance was sold to those who were not appropriate customers for the product.

The bank said it was “truly sorry” to those adversely affected by “our failings”.

Lloyds Bank last week took back £2m in bonuses from senior executives, and HSBC said it, too, had exercised “clawback”.

HSBC’s total bonus pool for the year to 31 December was £2.64bn.

Top earners

The group chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, received a total pay award of £7.2m, made up of a £1.2m salary, a £2.2m bonus and long-term incentives of £3.75m, which is in shares and cannot be sold until he retires or leaves the bank.

Mr Gulliver was not the top earner this year, however. Another senior bank employee, who has not been named, will receive £8m in total.

More than 200 key employees in the UK earned a total of £53m.

The size of the remuneration was seen as inappropriate by some, partly because the bank is currently in the process of cutting 30,000 jobs worldwide as part of wide-ranging cost-cutting measures designed to save up to £2.2bn by 2013.

David Fleming, national officer at the union Unite, said: “How can Stuart Gulliver have a clear conscience over his reward package of £7.2m while thousands of staff face uncertainty about their jobs?”

The bank’s chairman, Douglas Flint, who will receive £3.4m for 2011, said he accepted that “a few people” were paid “extraordinarily well” but insisted the bank needed to attract and retain the best staff.


HSBC is the currently the most profitable Western bank, with its nearest rival, JP Morgan, reporting a profit of £12bn.

It operates in 80 countries and employs 288,000 people, 50,000 in the UK.

Mr Gulliver said: “2011 was a year of major progress for HSBC. We gained traction in our strategy designed to simplify the structure and improve the management and control of the group.

“I am pleased with our progress, but there is a lot more to do and we remain focused on delivering our targets.”

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Malaysia’s looming General Election 2012

Key trends in the looming GE13


Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is slated to win the next general election, with the margin depending on how both sides of the political divide appeal to and win over the 1.9 million new voters.

I HAVE spent the past three weeks almost exclusively in Malaysia – travelling and listening to people. A lot of this time has inevitably been spent with fellow writers and editors.

In fact, journalists prefer talking to other journalists so there’s always a danger that we’re living in a bubble — something that we often accuse politicians of doing!

At the same time, and as explained by Malaysian Insider’s Jahabar Sadiq: “We were caught napping in 2008. Ever since, we’ve been over-compensating.”

So bearing in mind our collective fear of being wrong, here – for what it’s worth – are the key trends I’ve identified that will feature in the next general election (GE).

> The delayed pendulum: Ma­lay­sian GEs have tended to follow a pendulum-like movement, with swings to and from Barisan National (BN) in alternate polls.

However, in 2012/3 there will be a subsidiary trend at work in Sabah, Sarawak and Johor (dubbed BN’s “Fixed Deposit”) if there is a shift of Chinese support while the rest of the peninsula reverts to form.

> The democracy wave from Singapore: The vote in southern Johor will be impacted by the many Malaysians who live and work in the city-state.

Having observed the republic’s two nation-wide polls (parliamentary and presidential) in 2011 and witnessed the extent to which the PAP government subsequently reversed unpopular housing, healthcare and immigration policies, Johoreans will have learnt the value of tactical voting in order to engineer policy shifts.

> Sabah: West Malaysian/Umno leaders continue to underestimate the importance of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Illegal Immigrants for Sabahans (especially the KadazanDusun and Murut communities).

> The Prime Minister’s two key performance indicators (KPIs): Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is slated to win the next GE.

However, victory is only the first of his KPIs.

The second is that he must surpass his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s 2008 showing (140 seats).

Indeed, the rationale behind Najib’s rise to the premiership was his unspoken promise of returning Umno (and BN) to its earlier glory. Failure to achieve this will lead to a reassessment of his leadership.

> Najib’s presidential style campaign: It has boosted the premier’s approval ratings. Given the fact that Malaysia has adopted the Westminster system, the PM’s popularity has not translated into greater support for Umno (or BN), leaving many potential candidates to struggle.

As such, there is no guarantee that Najib’s personal popularity will strengthen BN in the 13th GE.

> Newly-registered voters: Esti­mated at some 1.9 million, both sides are scratching their heads as to how to appeal to and win over this disparate and largely disinterested mass of voters.

There appears to be little party loyalty and commitment among this group. Their support may well depend on a last-minute and/or unexpected political “black swan-type” event triggering a sudden and massive swing in either coalition’s favour.

> Indian community: The community is no longer virulently anti-Barisan. While Malaysian Indians are by no means “grateful”, the Hindraf-connected anger has dissipated with the departure of MIC honcho Datuk Seri Samy Vellu and Datuk Seri G. Palanivel’s low-key leadership.

The Indian vote will help BN in countless marginal seats.

> NFC – “Istana” Mat Deros for 2012: In 2008 we had Umno’s Port Klang Assemblyman, the late Zakaria Mat Deros, and his infamous “Istana” built on allegedly illegally-acquired land.

In 2012/13 we have the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal, which continues to unfold.

The NFC has been very damaging in rural Malay and Indian communities where voters are most familiar with the economics of cattle-rearing.

> Changing face of domestic politics: Malaysian politics is shifting. This will be the last GE for “institutional” players, the Umno warlords who refuse to court public opinion.

Most of these political dinosaurs can’t be bothered to engage with the public, debate and/or win support from the media.

Indeed, party hacks – from both BN and Pakatan – will become increasingly unpopular and loathed.

They have no future and will be replaced by those who can think, talk and argue in public such as Saifuddin Abdullah, Zambry Abdul Kadir and Shabery Cheek.

Emotional intelligence and humility will also be important. The absence of these two qualities will lead to the premature political demise of certain candidates.

> Kedah: Pakatan extols its successes in Penang and Selangor. However, the coalition is strangely silent about the Kedah government’s less than sterling record of administration.

> Public trust in the Government: Widespread cynicism and distrust will force the Government to shelve many policy and business initiatives.

BN’s ability to command public support without extensive consultation and stakeholder engagement has evaporated.

Put all this together and what do you get? A very, very interesting 2012/13 indeed

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