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HSBC Q1 profit misses estimate, unveils US$2b new share buyback

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HSBC Holdings PLC posted on Friday an unexpected 4 per cent drop in first-quarter pre-tax profit due to a surge in investments, missing estimates, and announced plans to initiate a new share buyback of up to US$2 billion.

[HONG KONG] HSBC Holdings PLC posted on Friday an unexpected 4 per cent drop in first-quarter pre-tax profit due to a surge in investments, missing estimates, and announced plans to initiate a new share buyback of up to US$2 billion.

"Given the growth opportunities we currently see, we expect this to be the only share buyback that we announce in 2018," Europe's biggest bank by assets said, adding the process was expected to start shortly.

The bank's pre-tax profit of US$4.76 billion for the three months ended March 31 compared to US$4.96 billion in the year-ago period. The profit in the latest quarter was below the US$5.76 billion average of analysts' estimates compiled by the bank.

The bank's profit shrank mainly as a nearly 13 per cent rise in operating expenses outpaced revenue growth of 5.5 per cent.

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HSBC said the rise in costs was due to investment in its retail banking businesses in its core markets of Britain and China.

"We also made strategic hires in our securities joint venture in mainland China, and invested to enhance our digital capabilities in all our global businesses," said chief executive John Flint in a statement.

Mr Flint, who took over as the chief executive in February, plans to double down on HSBC's 'pivot' to Asia and China in particular, despite some setbacks in the plan launched in June 2015.

The main pillar of that strategy is centred around the fast growing Pearl River Delta region in southern China that borders Hong Kong, and to make it its gateway to the world's second-largest economy HSBC plans to grow its retail and corporate banking business in the region by hiring thousands of staff and opening new branches, a plan that has suffered some setbacks amid China's slowing growth.

The bank made over 75 per cent of its profits in Asia in 2017.

REUTERS