onsdag 9 november 2011

HSBC says may leave UK, warns on global slowdown

LONDON (Reuters) - HSBC (LSE:HSBA.L) gave its starkest warning to date that new regulations might force it to leave Britain and warned that problems in Europe had hurt growth elsewhere and created a "very
challenging" global economy.

Europe's biggest bank reported a 36 percent fall in third quarter profits as the euro zone debt crisis hit investment bank income and bad debts jumped almost $1 billion in the United States as homeowners topped paying their mortgages.

HSBC (HKSE:0005.HK) Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver aims to cut annual costs by $3.5 billion and sharpen the bank's focus on Asia, quitting countries where the bank lacks scale in an attempt to revive profitability.

The bank was turning a corner on costs and making progress on the turnaround plan, but it would be a long haul and external headwinds were building, he said.

"The outlook for the global economy is very challenging as problems in developed markets begin to affect growth rates around the world," Gulliver said.

Losses on bad debts swelled to $3.9 billion in the third quarter, up $1 billion from the previous quarter, as U.S. impairments jumped by 64 percent to $2.4 billion, which the bank blamed on a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures.

"We're seeing the effects of moral hazard, where even seriously delinquent customers simply cannot be foreclosed on by banks operating in the United States," Finance Director Iain Mackay told journalists on a conference call.

HSBC has so far said it will sell or retreat from 14 countries. They include the sale of its U.S. credit card business and branches in New York state, retail businesses in Russia, Poland and Chile, and its Canadian brokerage business. It is exiting Poland and Georgia.

It has also put its $1 billion general insurance business on the block.

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