Hush Money

Image source: Cristina Gottardi @cristina_gottardi - Unsplash, ZoneCreative - Shutterstock

What's going on?

HSBC announced underwhelming second-quarter results on Monday, but the British bank sweetened the deal with a little somethin’ somethin’…

What does this mean?

HSBC’s investment banking revenue dropped 25% versus the same time last year, and its savings and lending business – which is usually pretty reliable – failed to pick up the slack. Still, at least the bank was able to free up a chunk of the money it’d put to one side in case customers couldn’t repay their loans, bringing the bank’s profit in above expectations.

Those “reserve releases” also mean HSBC thinks it’ll be able to exceed one of its prior targets: the bank had wanted to pay out 40-55% of its annual profits as dividends from next year, but it thinks it’ll be able to do it this year instead. The bank’s even looking at adding some share buybacks into the mix too.

Why should I care?

For markets: Divided over dividends.

HSBC is one of the biggest dividend payers among European banks, and analysts are expecting it to pay out more than its rivals over the next few years. But that might not be as much as the bank would like: its costs were higher than expected last quarter, with the 3,500 staff cuts it made in the first half of the year not enough to offset surging tech spending and bonus payments. So higher dividends now are great and all, but they won’t matter much if they come at the expense of future payouts.

The bigger picture: China without the risk. 

Some investors like HSBC because its stock offers exposure to the fast-growing Asian market via the bank’s businesses in China and Hong Kong, without the risks involved in owning the region’s stocks directly. Government crackdowns, after all, are cropping up increasingly frequently in the country. And those investors might be onto something: Chinese stocks fell 4% after regulators reared their ugly heads again last week, but HSBC’s only fell 1%.

Originally posted as part of the Finimize daily email.

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