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HSBC plans to speed up restructuring as profits drop 36%

The London-based lender said Tuesday that revenue fell 11% in the third quarter compared to the same period the year before. Pre-tax profit dropped 36% year-on-year to $3.1 billion.

HSBC (HSBC) CEO Noel Quinn said that the company would now move to accelerate its reorganization, which already includes roughly 35,000 job cuts and a dramatic overhaul of its business.

The company offered an update on those plans Tuesday, saying that the remodel of its units in the United States and Europe were on track. But it now expects to trim more costs and shed more assets than originally outlined.

HSBC said in February that it would ditch $100 billion in assets through 2022. It now anticipates to "exceed" that sum, it said.

The bank has also realized a need to "adapt our business model to a protracted low interest rate environment," Quinn said in a statement.

"We are accelerating the transformation of the group, moving our focus from interest-rate sensitive business lines towards fee-generating businesses, and further reducing our operating costs."

Central banks around the world have slashed interest rates to historic lows this year as the pandemic continues to weigh on the global economy. In September, the US Federal Reserve committed to keep rates near zero for the next few years, a sign that central banks don't intend to change course for some time. That's good news for anyone looking to borrow — but bad news for banks looking to get a return on their loans.
The company plans to reveal more details of its ongoing reorganization when reporting full-year results next spring. It will also then revisit whether to reinstate its dividend, which was scrapped earlier this year at the request of UK regulators. Should the dividend be brought back, it would be at "a conservative" level, it added.

"Any such dividend would be dependent on the economic outlook in early 2021, and be subject to regulatory consultation," the bank said.

One major bright spot for HSBC remains: its Asia business. The company had already pledged to shift more resources there, since that's where it makes most of its profits.

But it now plans to step up with even more investments in the region, particularly in China's Greater Bay Area and South Asia. Areas of focus will include wealth management, trade finance, and sustainable finance, according to the bank.

HSBC shares listed in Hong Kong and London jumped 4.8% and 5.6%, respectively following the news on Tuesday.

"'[The] Asian economy is rebounding strongly, led by a pick-up in manufacturing and trade," the bank said in a presentation to investors. "HSBC's client activity has [also] shown resilience into the third quarter."

However, the bank conceded that its renewed focus in Asia could become a liability. It said that any "financial impact to the group of geopolitical risks in Asia is heightened due to the strategic importance of the region, and Hong Kong in particular, in terms of profitability and prospects for growth."

HSBC's stock has slumped in recent months as it contends with the need to reshape its business. The bank's shares in London and Hong Kong are both down more than 40% so far this year.

On Tuesday, it warned investors once again of potential political firestorms, including "the unrest in Hong Kong, the existing US-China tensions and the emerging challenges in UK-China relations, which in turn may affect demand for our products and services." It also cautioned investors about the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and the ongoing trade talks between the United Kingdom and European Union.

— Julia Horowitz contributed to this report.

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