HSBC boosts dividend payout amid break-up pressure

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HSBC is handing out its biggest shareholder payout in four years as the lender moves to fend off break-up calls from its largest Chinese investor.

The FTSE 100 bank said it will pay a dividend of 32 cents per share, the highest since 2018, adding that it plans to issue a special dividend following the $10bn (£8.3bn) sale of its Canada business.

It comes as Ping An, HSBC’s largest shareholder, pressures the bank to split its booming Asian business off from its stagnant Western operations.

The Chinese insurance giant has also argued the lender can no longer effectively operate in both the East and West amid rising political tensions between the US and China.

Noel Quinn, HSBC’s chief executive, said: “We are on track to deliver higher returns in 2023 and have built a platform for further value creation.

“It has been, and remains, our judgment that alternative structural options would not deliver increased value for shareholders. Rather, they would have a material negative impact on value.”

Mr Quinn added that he will meet with Ping An as part of the bank’s usual investor outreach following the results.

Pre-tax profits at HSBC doubled in the final quarter of last year to $5.2bn on the back of rising interest rates.

However, annual profits slumped to $17.5bn from $18.9bn for 2021, owing to a $2.14bn charge relating to the sale of its retail banking operations in France.

It also took a $1.4bn hit from credit losses relating to bad loans to UK companies and exposure to China’s real estate crisis.

The Asia-focused bank, which counts Hong Kong as its biggest market, also said it will return to paying quarterly dividends in 2023, and would bring forward the consideration of fresh share buybacks to the first quarter of 2023.

HSBC has repeatedly come under fire from activists and politicians for publicly backing Beijing’s national security law, which bans anti-government activity in the former British colony.

Earlier this month, a group of MPs accused HSBC of being complicit in human rights abuses against Hong Kong citizens by siding with communist China and blocking pensions payouts for those who fled to Britain.