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HSBC chairman signals bank may shift headquarters from London

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HSBC Holdings Plc will consider whether to move its headquarters from London once the regulatory environment becomes clearer, Chairman Douglas Flint said.

[LONDON] HSBC Holdings Plc will consider whether to move its headquarters from London once the regulatory environment becomes clearer, Chairman Douglas Flint said.

"We are beginning to see the final shape of regulation, the final shape of structural reform and as soon as that mist lifts sufficiently, we will once again start to look at where the best place for HSBC is," Mr Flint, 59, told a shareholder meeting in Hong Kong on Monday after one investor urged him to quit London.

HSBC, Europe's largest bank, has faced calls to move its domicile away from the British capital after the government increased the levy on bank's balance sheets for an eighth time this year. Because it has the most assets of any UK lender, HSBC is hit the hardest by the tax, paying 750 million pounds (S$1.51 billion) last year.

Standard Chartered Plc, another British bank that like HSBC makes most of its profit in Asia, is also being urged by Aberdeen Asset Management Plc, its second-largest shareholder, to relocate to Asia because of the cost of being in London.

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Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver apologized to shareholders for the scandal that's engulfed its Swiss private banking unit. He was criticized by British lawmakers after leaked documents showed the operation advised clients on how to evade tax. The bank is also the target of a criminal probe in France into tax evasion.

While Mr Gulliver said the bank is committed to increasing its dividend, Flint said extra tax costs limit the amount of money available.

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