HSBC profits fall as bank bids to restore flagging revenues

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Bank giant HSBC has reported a 19% fall in profits for the first three months of 2017 as it bids to restore flagging revenues after a restructuring.

But the fall in profits to $5bn (£3.9bn) beat analysts’ forecasts, and HSBC’s shares rose 3%.

The lower profits were due mainly to accounting changes, while the results last year included proceeds from the sale of its Brazilian business.

Chief executive Stuart Gulliver called the figures a “good set of results”.

Revenues for quarter rose to $12.84bn from $12.57bn, while adjusted pre-tax profit – which excludes one-off items – rose to $5.94bn from $5.3bn a year earlier.

The figures are the first since Europe’s largest bank announced the appointment of a new chairman in March. The move was part of a management overhaul that will also see HSBC choose a new chief executive.

Following a big drop in profits in 2015, HSBC embarked on a restructuring that led to thousands of job cuts, branch closures, asset sales, and a bigger focus on Asia.

Cost-cutting ‘on track’

Analyst Jackson Wong, from Huarong International Securities, said the figures showed a marked improvement.

“They cleaned up a lot of bad things in the last quarter of last year so this quarter, everything looks pretty decent, even the cost-cutting is on track,” he said.

Mr Gulliver said in Thursday’s statement that 2017 would see the completion of strategic measures announced in 2015, including the removal of low-return risky assets.

“Our cost-saving programme remains on track to hit the higher cost-saving target we announced at our annual results,” he added.

“Our pivot to Asia continues. We increased advances to customers and grew mortgages and business lending… all three of our North American businesses delivered material increases in profit before tax.”

Briton Mark Tucker, currently group chief executive and president of insurance group AIA, will take over as chairman from Douglas Flint in October.

One of Mr Tucker’s first jobs will be to lead the hunt for a replacement for Mr Gulliver, due to retire in 2018.