HSBC profits rise as investment banking rebounds

Jessica Morris
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The bank's pre-tax profit rose four per cent, despite a tough start to the year (Source: Getty)

The figures

Britain's biggest bank beat analyst expectations this morning, posting profit before tax of $7bn (£4.6bn) for the first three months of 2015, up from $6.8bn (£4.5bn) a year earlier.

Reported revenue came in at $15.9bn (£10.5bn) for the first quarter of 2015, broadly unchanged from the same time last year.

It added that reported operating expenses were broadly unchanged at $8.8bn.

Why it's interesting

The results were helped by a stellar performance from its investment banking division, with markets income revenue rising eight per cent. HSBC, like many of its counterparts, had benefited from an increasingly choppy trading environment.

But the results come at a time when HSBC is feeling the heat on a number of fronts.

HSBC has been embroiled in series of scandals, including accusations it helped wealthy Swiss clients avoid paying taxes. This came to light after the leak of files concerned more than 100,000 accounts holding more than $100bn, which were stolen in 2007 by a computer expert working for HSBC in Geneva.

And it was one of the six banks which were fined £2.7bn by US, UK and Swiss authorities in November for their role in manipulating currency benchmarks.

But there were no updates on the recent announcement that it has launched a review into whether to move its headquarters out of London, as a recent hike in the special tax levied on banks in the UK makes it increasingly costly to do business.

What HSBC said

Stuart Gulliver, HSBC's group chief executive, said:

Our business recovered well in the first quarter following a difficult fourth quarter in 2014. Global banking and markets had its usual strong start to the year, with a notable increase in year-on-year revenue in our markets businesses.

Commercial banking continued to perform well, particularly in the UK and Hong Kong, and principal retail banking & wealth management generated increased revenue. Loan impairment charges were significantly lower compared to the same period in 2014, particularly in Europe and North America.

In short

It's been a difficult start to the year for HSBC. However first quarter revenue was helped along by its investment banking division, which somewhat offset the continued squeeze from regulation. Will it move abroad? Difficult to say - but its senior management is sure to be watching the outcome of the election closely.

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