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HSBC nearly doubles CEO’s pay despite fall in fourth-quarter profits


Article originally published by The Guardian. Hargreaves Lansdown is not responsible for its content or accuracy and may not share the author's views. News and research are not personal recommendations to deal. All investments can fall in value so you could get back less than you invest.

HSBC has nearly doubled the pay packet of its chief executive, Noel Quinn, despite a drop in fourth-quarter profits, which took an unexpected hit from its exposure to China’s real estate downturn.

The London-headquartered lender disclosed on Wednesday that it had settled on a $10.6m (£8.4m) package for Quinn, marking a significant rise from the $5.6m he received for 2022, thanks to a long-term bonus in HSBC shares worth more than $5m.

The bank also increased its overall bonus pool for staff by 12% to $3.8m.

It came amid a surprise drop in fourth-quarter profits, which fell to $1bn from $5bn a year earlier, due primarily to a $3bn charge linked to the lender’s stake in the Bank of Communications in China, where lenders are struggling with a downturn in the country’s real estate market.

That was despite Quinn having suggested last quarter that China had experienced the worst of the crisis.

“I did say last quarter that I thought the market had bottomed. I still believe that,” he told a press briefing on Wednesday morning. “I also said last quarter that it will take a few years for the market to work its way through the current challenges. So I didn’t say challenges were over.

“But I did believe the activity levels in the commercial real estate market, the valuations in the commercial real estate market in mainland China had bottomed, and that what I saw was a progressive and gradual recovery in the market.”

However, HSBC reported a 78% rise in annual pre-tax profits, having benefited from rising interest rates in both the west and Asia – where it makes the bulk of its earnings – allowing it to charge its customers more for loans and mortgages.

HSBC’s profits were also flattered by its emergency rescue of Silicon Valley Bank UK during the mini-banking crisis in March 2023.

Overall, profits rose to $30.3bn, up from $17.1bn a year earlier. However, that missed analyst estimates of $34bn.

The bank is preparing to pay shareholders another dividend worth 31 cents a share, taking its total payout for the year to 61 cents. It also is planning a share buyback that will hand up to $2bn to investors.

Quinn said in a statement: “Our record profit performance in 2023 enabled us to reward our shareholders with our highest full-year dividend since 2008, three share buybacks last year totalling $7bn, and a further share buyback of up to $2bn. This reflected four years of hard work and the strength of our balance sheet in a higher interest rate environment.”

“We are focused on capturing these growth opportunities, improving our earnings sustainability and targeting mid-teens returns in 2024,” he added.

This article was written by Kalyeena Makortoff Banking correspondent from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the DiveMarketplace by Industry Dive. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.