HSBC's profits plunge 45% as low interest rates and bad loans take their toll


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  • HSBC posted a 45% decline in profits to $12.1 billion in 2020.
  • The bank earned $12.8 billion in Asia, but lost $4.2 billion in Europe.
  • HSBC earned lower profits in three of its four divisions.
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HSBC posted a 14% slump in adjusted revenue last quarter, as rock-bottom interest rates weighed on its operations. Combined with a 60% surge in credit-impairment charges to $1.2 billion due to significant economic uncertainty in the UK, the result was a 50% plunge in adjusted pre-tax profits to $2.2 billion.

Europe’s biggest bank suffered an 8% drop in adjusted revenue for the full year, and a 45% decline in adjusted pre-tax profits to $12.1 billion. Moreover, its credit-impairment charges surged by about 226% to $8.8 billion.

“In 2020, our people delivered an exceptional level of support for our customers in very tough circumstances, while our strong balance sheet and liquidity gave reassurance to those who rely on us,” CEO Noel Quinn said in the earnings release.

“We achieved this while delivering a solid financial performance in the context of the pandemic – particularly in Asia – and laying firm foundations for our future growth. “

Indeed, HSBC earned $12.8 billion in adjusted pre-tax profits from its Asia operations last year, which offset a $4.2 billion loss in Europe.

Three of the bank’s four segments generated less income in 2020. Adjusted pre-tax profits tumbled 53% in the wealth and personal-banking division, 74% plunge in the commercial-banking division, and 7% in the global banking and markets segment.

HSBC shares were last down 1.7% on London’s FTSE 100 index on Tuesday, ranking them among the worst performers out of the major European banks. 

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