HSBC bank accelerates cost cutting in drive for profit boost

HSBCBank's shares are up 13% since the start of 2011, compared with a 9% drop in European bank sector. (Reuters)

HSBC bank plans to cut annual costs by up to another $3 billion and may axe a further 14,000 jobs as Europe's biggest bank strives to drive profits in the face of sluggish growth outside Asia.

HSBC's new cost-cutting drive, stretching out to 2016, will enable the bank to boost capital and grow dividends, but Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver softened a key target to get costs to below 52 percent of revenue.

The new goal is to keep the ratio near 55 percent.

Gulliver has already sliced $4 billion off annual costs and culled 46,000 staff under an overhaul he began when he became CEO at the start of 2011.

The bank said employee numbers could fall to between 240,000 and 250,000, from 261,000 at the end of 2012 and 254,000 when current disposals and announced cuts take effect.

"I was looking for an ongoing battle against costs and the number they have put on it is bigger than I would have thought, given that they have taken out 4 billion already," said Chris Wheeler, analyst with Mediobanca.

"The big debate will rage about revenue growth today."

In the face of weak demand in Europe, HSBC plans to grow revenue by focusing on high-return markets in Asia, and through greater cooperation between the bank's Commercial Banking, Private Banking and Global Banking and Markets divisions.


The business unit collaboration effort realised $900 million in added revenue between 2011 and 2012, the bank said, with an additional $2 billion in incremental collaboration revenue targeted by 2016.

Gulliver kept his goal to deliver a return on equity (RoE) of at least 12 percent and hardened his goal on capital, aiming to hold a core capital ratio of over 10 percent, against a previous target of between 9.5 and 10.5 percent.

That reflects tougher capital rules being enforced on banks by global and UK regulators, which depresses the returns banks are able to deliver. Some analysts say HSBC may not deliver its RoE target by this year, which was Gulliver's aim.

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