London: Global banking giant HSBC said on Monday that profits were rising strongly on the basis of first-quarter data and it saw “robust” growth in China and India, while remaining cautious for the year.
First-quarter pre-tax profits were “well ahead” of the figure for the same period of last year, the bank said, bouncing back despite the world financial crisis.
The group gave a cautious outlook for the year ahead amid concerns about the tough trading environment and a spreading global recession — but also cited “robust” growth in China and India.
“HSBC has made a resilient start to 2009,” the group said in an interim management statement, noting that “underlying pre-tax profit was well ahead of the first quarter of 2008.”
“Revenue recovered strongly from the fourth quarter of 2008, with record results in Global Banking and Markets which benefited from improved market share and margins in a number of key areas.
“The group’s costs were held flat overall. Operating trends were in line with our expectations.”
HSBC, while escaping the need for a British government bailout, recently raised £12.5 billion ($18 billion, €13.7 billion) via a sale of new shares.
The huge rights issue was launched after HSBC’s 2008 net profit plunged 70% because of the collapse of the US subprime or higher-risk home loan market — whose collapse sparked the worldwide credit crunch.
“The rights issue enhanced HSBC’s signature financial strength and this, together with the start made to 2009, means we are well-positioned to ride out the economic uncertainty ahead, and to take advantage of opportunities to grow,” added HSBC chief executive Michael Geoghegan in the statement.
However, he admitted that credit demand remained subdued amid the ongoing global economic and financial crisis.
“As a leading global deposit-taker, we are very much open for business, particularly for our core customer relationships, but demand for credit is subdued,” Geoghegan added.
The group also revealed on Monday that loan impairment charges and other credit risk provisions rose in the first quarter of 2009 in all customer groups and regions.
In late morning trade, HSBC’s share price sank 3.20% to 559 pence on London’s FTSE 100 index of leading companies, which was 0.58% higher at 4,424.38 points.
HSBC chairman Stephen Green added that the bank saw “robust” growth in key Asian markets China and India — despite the uncertain outlook elsewhere.
“The future macro-economic environment remains highly uncertain and signals from the broader economy are very mixed,” Green said.
“Economic activity remains unusually depressed in spite of interest rates at historically low levels globally. However, US consumer spending has held up well and business sentiment has improved in recent months.
“Asia has proven resilient, with China and India continuing to grow robustly, particularly China where stimulus initiatives have clearly had a direct domestic impact.
“There are also signs that financial markets may be regaining some of their appetite for risk.”