Sunday, April 18, 2021

HSBC shares fall to lowest in Hong Kong amid money laundering report

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HSBC’s share price fell to its lowest level since 1995 amid allegations of money laundering.

HSBC allowed fraudsters to transfer millions of dollars around the world even after it had learned of their scam, leaked secret files show.

The UK-based bank faces multiple pressures including political tension in Hong Kong and the pandemic fallout.

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On Monday in Hong Kong, the shares fell by more than 4% to less than HK$30. In London at midday they were down 6%.

HSBC is headquartered in London, although more than half of its profits come from Asia and its shares are important components of both the London and Hong Kong share markets.

Also hit were rival banks. At lunchtime, Standard Chartered and Barclays were down by 5% and 6% respectively, while Germany’s Deutsche Bank was down 8%.

But the share price falls came against a backdrop of broader negative sentiment on share markets. UK shares were down sharply amid fears of further Covid-related restrictions.

HSBC had been under pressure on multiple fronts before the files were leaked and its shares have taken a particularly hard battering this year, falling by some 50%.

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Its role in a $80m (£62m) fraud is detailed in a leak of documents – banks’ “suspicious activity reports” – that have been called the FinCEN Files.

HSBC moved the money through its US business to HSBC accounts in Hong Kong in 2013 and 2014.

HSBC share price chart

The bank says it has always met its legal duties on reporting such activity.

Multiple pressures

HSBC, which is Europe’s biggest bank,has set aside between $8bn and $13bn this year for bad loans as it expects more people and businesses to default on their repayments because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In August it reported a 65% drop in pre-tax profits to $4.3bn for the first half of the year – much steeper than analysts had forecast.

It also became embroiled in a political battle over its support of China’s national security law in Hong Kong and was lambasted by both the US and UK.

Cost-cutting

HSBC is currently pushing ahead with major restructuring of its global banking operations.

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Chief executive Noel Quinn, who officially took over in March, said the bank would further pivot into Asia as its European operations lose money.

Mr Quinn said HSBC would “accelerate” an earlier restructuring plan which includes the axing of 35,000 jobs.

UK bank Standard Chartered, which was also named in the leaked files, saw its Hong Kong share price fall in Monday Asian trading.

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