London based HSBC has had its expansion plans throughout Asia dashed by slowing economic growth in China and increased market volatility throughout the region, according to Moody's Investors Service.
The bank, which is still considering whether to move its headquarters to Hong Kong or possibly the US, pulled in around 60 per cent of pre-tax profits in the first nine months of 2015, down from around 78 per cent in the first nine months of 2014.
“HSBC has reduced its exposure to Chinese financial institutions by more than $30 billion over the last two and half years,” said Andrea Usai, a senior credit officer at Moody's.
At the end of September 2015, HSBC's total assets in mainland China were $96bn. The slowing of its Asian expansion will cast further doubt over whether HSBC will relocate its headquarters away from London. The review into the move from HSBC was expected before the end of 2015, though it was pushed back.
HSBC will issue an update when posting its annual results on 22 February. Last week major HSBC investors told City A.M. they expect the bank to remain domiciled in London following changes to the political and regulatory landscape since the review was announced nine months ago.
In July the chancellor George Osborne announced in the summer budget the annual levy banks pay on their balance sheets would be gradually phased out, replaced by an eight per cent surcharge on their profits.
Late last year HSBC fears that it could lose control of its UK retail arm under retail bank ring-fencing rules were clarified by the Prudential Regulation Authority.
Richard Buxton, chief executive of HSBC shareholder Old Mutual Global Investors, said: “These address HSBC’s concerns, whilst clearly current events in Hong Kong and Chinese financial markets are a timely reminder of some of the risks associated with a move back to Hong Kong.”
Martin Gilbert, the chief executive of top 10 shareholder in HSBC Aberdeen Asset Management, said: “The UK has become more hospitable.”