HSBC Takes $7.3 Billion Charge in Extensive Restructuring

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HSBC Holdings Plc is taking about $7.3 billion of charges and exiting several business units in its most ambitious restructuring plan since the global financial crisis.

The London-headquartered bank is targeting cost cuts by $4.5 billion as it takes on a refreshed strategy to boost returns. The bank, which earns the bulk of its profits in Asia, is still searching for a permanent chief executive officer while interim boss Noel Quinn runs the lender.

“Parts of our business are not delivering acceptable returns,” Quinn said in a statement as part of its full-year earnings on Tuesday. “We are therefore outlining a revised plan to increase returns for investors.”

Cutbacks at HSBC will extend into parts of its European and U.S. investment banking businesses. In the U.S., assets linked to its trading operations will be nearly halved under the new plan. The lender will instead bolster its investment banking units in Asia and the Middle East.

A refreshed strategy is a key plank to Chairman Mark Tucker’s plans to transform HSBC as questions have mounted over its relatively poor returns given its exposure to many of the world’s fastest-growing economies, in particular China where it has focused its investment.

The bank warned the coronavirus outbreak and economic disruption in Hong Kong may impact its 2020 performance.

HSBC’s adjusted pretax profits of $22.2 billion beat analysts’ forecasts, despite the multi-billion dollar charge taken against the cost of the restructuring. HSBC had been forecast to report an adjusted pretax profit of $21.8 billion, according to the company-compiled estimate of 18 analysts.

The company also suspended its share buyback program for 2020 and 2021.

Previous boss John Flint was ousted as CEO last year in part over Tucker’s concerns the executive lacked the ability to turnaround the lender’s performance. Quinn, Tucker and chief financial officer Ewen Stevenson then began developing plans aimed at shrinking the bank’s cost base and focusing on higher returning markets, while curtailing exposures to regions and operations deemed subpar.

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