HSBC’s top brass defended their strategy Monday to frustrated shareholders in the lender’s largest market, as Europe’s biggest bank continued to face calls to be split up.
At an informal shareholder meeting in Hong Kong, Chairman Mark Tucker and CEO Noel Quinn took questions from investors on issues ranging from how the bank was approaching demands for an overhaul of its business to its purchase of Silicon Valley Bank’s UK arm.
In prepared remarks, Tucker and Quinn each reiterated the board’s recommendation that shareholders vote against a resolution on the docket for its annual general meeting in May that would force the bank to come up with a plan to spin off or reorganize its Asian business — the lender’s main source of profits.
Tucker said the board was unanimous in its opposition to the resolution, stating plainly: “It would not be in your interest to split the bank.”
He said the board had previously reviewed a range of options for restructuring the bank, and concluded that such alternatives would “materially destroy value for shareholders,” including dividends.
“Our strategy is working,” Tucker told the room of more than 1,000 shareholders. “Our current strategy is moving dividends up.”
Calls for a breakup
HSBC has been facing calls to separate its Asian business from the rest of the bank over the past year.
Shareholders in Hong Kong — where HSBC is a mainstay of many retail investors’ portfolios — contend that the London-based lender’s performance has been dragged down by its businesses in other regions.
Quinn addressed those complaints head-on Monday, saying “our profits in Hong Kong and the UK are no longer being dragged down by underperformance elsewhere. The group is performing well as a whole.”
Pressed later by a shareholder on the issue, Quinn said a breakup of the bank would result in “significant revenue