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HSBC decides to stay in Britain

HSBC has decided to keep its headquarters in Britain, the bank said on Sunday, following a review into a potential move that could have shifted the group's base to Hong Kong.

[LONDON] Global bank HSBC on Sunday decided to remain headquartered in Britain instead of moving to Hong Kong in a relief for the City after a review prompted by concern about increased regulation.  

“Unanimous Board decision for #HSBC HQ to remain in the UK,” the bank said on Twitter in a decision that was immediately welcomed by the government.  

“London is one of the world’s leading international financial centres and home to a large pool of highly skilled, international talent,” the bank said later in a statement. “It remains therefore ideally positioned to be the home base for a global financial institution such as HSBC”.  

A finance ministry spokeswoman said the decision was “a vote of confidence in the government’s economic plan and a boost to our goal of making the UK a great place to do more business with China and the rest of Asia”.  

Bank chief executive Stuart Gulliver said the final choice had been between Britain and Hong Kong, although the review had also reportedly considered Germany and the United States.  

The statement added that “Asia remains at the heart of the group’s strategy,” adding that the bank would put particular emphasis on investing further in China’s Pearl River Delta and Southeast Asia. “This reflects increasing shifts in global trade and capital flows to and from Asia, in respect of which Hong Kong will play a pivotal role,” it said.  

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), a big business lobby, also welcomed the decision.  “We want to have truly global companies, major employers like HSBC, headquartered here,” she said.  The review “emphasises the need for the UK to continuously stay competitive on regulation, tax and talent,” she added.  

The review began in April, two weeks before a general election, amid growing calls for a crackdown on the banking sector.  The Asia-focused bank’s move highlighted concern about government policy to ring fence British banks’ retail operations to protect them from their investment divisions.  

The board had “asked management to commence work to look at where the best place is for HSBC to be headquartered” amid “regulatory and structural reforms”, HSBC chairman Douglas Flint said then in a statement. 

HSBC has been based in Britain since 1992 when it took over Midland Bank and shifted its headquarters from Hong Kong to London. It was founded in Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1865 and has 48,000 of its 257,000 global staff in Britain.