HSBC Signals 14,000 Job Cuts in $3 Billion Savings PlanHoward Mustoe and Gavin Finch
HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest bank, will eliminate as many as 14,000 more jobs as Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver set out plans to cut an additional $3 billion of costs as he tries to revive profitability.
The bank expects to reduce the number of employees to as few as 240,000 over the next three years, Gulliver told reporters on a conference call today as he updated investors on his strategy for the London-based lender. HSBC had already announced plans to reduce headcount to about 254,000.
Gulliver, 54, is focusing on reducing costs, selling assets and expanding in faster-growing markets as he struggles to boost revenue that’s been crimped by the sovereign debt crisis in Europe. He’s already eliminated more than $4 billion of annual expenses, beating his initial target, and cut 46,000 jobs since he took over in 2011.
“You’re getting cost cuts as a means of sustaining performance and that’s not a great sign,” said Simon Maughan, an analyst at Olivetree Securities Ltd. in London. “What HSBC is showing you is that there is very little growth in the banking industry for years to come.”
The shares rose 8 pence, or 1.1 percent, to 754.4 pence in London. HSBC has gained 17 percent this year.
While HSBC has met its original cost savings target, it hasn’t met its goal to reduce costs as a percentage of revenue because income hasn’t grown, Gulliver said today.
“After we set the target the euro-zone crisis started,” he said. The failure to meet the target “comes from the revenue side, rather than the cost side,” he added.
The bank will seek to reduce costs to about 55 percent of revenue in 2014-2016, HSBC said. That compares with a target of 48 percent to 52 percent for the previous three-year period. It plans to eliminate $2 billion to $3 billion of costs.
The additional job cuts will be global and not focused on any particular area of the business, Gulliver said today.
From next year HSBC, which had a common equity Tier 1 ratio of 10.1 percent in the first quarter, will seek to keep that gauge at more than 10 percent under new capital rules set by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. That compares with a target of 9.5 percent to 10.5 percent previously.
Return on Equity
HSBC is keeping its goal of return on equity, a measure of profitability, at 12 percent to 15 percent. It was 8.4 percent in 2012. The bank’s so-called core units already achieve return on equity within the target, Gulliver said.
The bank will grow in “commercial banking in Asia Pacific and Latin America, in particular, and into retail banking and wealth management which will be in the U.K. and Hong Kong predominantly,” Gulliver said.
The bank’s financial strength will allow it to invest and increase dividends, Gulliver said. HSBC on March 4 increased its 2012 dividend by 10 percent from 2011 to 45 cents a share. The payout ratio will remain at 40 percent to 60 percent for the next three-year period, the bank said today.
The bank also said it may buy back shares by 2016, neutralizing the dilutive effect of its scrip dividend, whereby new shares are created and given to shareholders usually in place of a payout.
“The group clearly has too much capital generation for its growth opportunities,” wrote Jason Napier, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in a note to investors today. He recommends investors buy the shares.
Asset sales have also helped the bank boost capital as regulators seek to shield taxpayers from the cost of rescuing banks in the future.
HSBC sold its stake in Shenzhen, China-based Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. for about $9.4 billion in February and the same month said it would sell its Panama unit for $2.1 billion. It completed the sale of its U.S. credit card unit to Capital One Financial Corp. for a premium of $2.5 billion last May, the same month it agreed to sell four units in Latin America for about $400 million to Colombia’s Banco GNB Sudameris SA.