United Kingdom

HSBC considers paying 'conservative' 2020 dividend

Banking giant HSBC said it could start charging for basic banking services such as current accounts as it unveiled a 36 per cent fall in third quarter profits. 

But shares in the Asia-focused lender jumped after it said that it may pay a 'conservative' 2020 dividend as it set aside less money than expected for bad loans.

HSBC shares in London rose 6.6 per cent to 340.45p by 9am on Tuesday. But they remain down around 42 per cent since the start of the year.

Overhaul: HSBC said it could start charging for current accounts as profits shrink

The bank made pre-tax profit of $3.1billion (£2.4billion) between July and September, down 36 per cent from $4.8billion (£3.7billion) in the same quarter last year, but above analysts' expectations. 

Revenues fell 11 per cent to $11.9billion (£9.15billion) as lower interest rates hit income, with revenues from lending falling by a larger near-15 per cent. 

HSBC, like other banks, is seeing income shrink due to low interest rates, which are restricting how much it can charge for loans. 

Finance boss Ewen Stevenson said the bank may start charging customers for basic services such as current accounts, despite expectations among the public that they are 'free'.

'We will have to look at charging for basic banking services in some markets, because a large number of our customers in this environment will be losing us money,' Stevenson told Reuters. 

However, similarly to Barclays, HSBC said it had set aside less money to cover bad loans - some $785million (£603million) compared to $3.8billion (£2.9billion) in the previous quarter.

And the bank, which was forced to stop paying a dividend in the wake of the crisis, floated the idea of resuming shareholder payouts at the end of the year. 

Chief executive Noel Quinn said: 'A decision on whether to pay a dividend for the 2020 financial year will depend on economic conditions in early 2021, and be subject to regulatory consultation. 

'We will seek to pay a conservative dividend if circumstances allow.'

It comes as the Bank of England is said to have been talking to commercial banks about restarting shareholder payments. 

Chief executive Noel Quinn said the bank will look to pay a 'conservative dividend if circumstances allow'

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said of the bank's performance: 'This is certainly good news all round and the outperformance has no doubt been helped by the improvement in recent Chinese economic data, where the Chinese economy appears to be firing back to life.

'In the first half of the year the bank expressed caution over the economic outlook as well Covid-19, however this quarter it appears the bank is more optimistic'. 

HSBC also said it will accelerate plans to shrink in size and slash costs further than previously suggested. 

The bank is already in the in the midst of a significant cost cutting plan, with 4,000 jobs cut in the first half alone. 

In June, it restarted a three-year plan to reduce its employee numbers by 35,000 to 200,000 that had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

It now plans to reduce annual costs to below $31billion by 2022, a more ambitious target than it set out in February.    

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