HSBC foils significant investor’s plot to break up bank
During a sometimes contentious annual general meeting, HSBC resisted an attempt by its largest shareholder to split up the firm.
Ping An, a Chinese insurer, has been attempting to divide the bank for more than a year.
It failed to get the support of any other large shareholder on Friday, as investors voted to reject the idea.
The verdict, according to HSBC chairman Mark Tucker, “draws a line” in a long-running argument regarding the bank’s structure.
Despite its London headquarters, HSBC makes the vast majority of its profits in Asia.
Ping An, which owns 8% of HSBC, wants the bank to separate its Asian operations.
It claims that the bank’s profitable Asian divisions are subsidizing less profitable portions of the business. Splitting HSBC would also liberate it from UK authorities’ requirements.
To force the separation, Ping An and Ken Lui, an independent Hong Kong-based shareholder in HSBC, needed to collect 75% of all votes cast at the AGM.
They were unable to obtain those figures since no other significant institutional investor supported the concept.
Mr Tucker told the AGM that breaking apart the bank would harm its worldwide ambition and be dangerous and expensive.
“It would not be in shareholders’ interests to split the bank,” he said at the Birmingham AGM, which was regularly stopped by climate change activists who allege HSBC is not doing enough to cut its financing of polluting sectors and enterprises.
Mr Lui vowed to continue on with the break-up plan at the meeting, saying he would keep pressure on HSBC’s management and lobby the bank’s many tiny shareholders in Hong Kong.
It’s unclear what Ping An’s next move will be, but there are broader issues at stake than just generating a profit.