HSBC mulls banker pay rises to combat bonus cap rules

Profits were slightly below market expectations

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HSBC is considering raising its bankers salaries in a bid to limit the impact of new rules which will cap bonuses at a maximum of double their salary.

Chairman Douglas Flint said increasing salaries was "one of the possibilities" of a "whole range of things" the bank was considering to maintain its competitive position.

"We have to be competitive," Mr Flint said, as the bank unveiled a 10% rise in pre-tax profits to $14.1bn (£9.2bn).

The rise came despite revenues falling.

The regulations, implemented by the European Union, will come into force from the start of next year.

Mr Flint said that around 80% of the bank's profits came from non-European markets, making it "very uncomfortable" in regions, such as Asia and the US, where its competitors did not face the same restrictions.

"These legislative changes...could have a highly damaging impact on our competitiveness position in many of our key markets, including those outside Europe," Mr Flint said.

HSBC said it would consult on how to best protect its competitive position.

Profits rise

Mr Flint's warning came as HSBC reported a rise in profits for the first half of the year, despite a 7% drop in revenues, as it streamlined its business and cut operating costs.

The bank shaved 13% from its operating costs, helped by the sale of non-core businesses and lower bad debts.

"We have successfully progressed the repositioning of the business," said chief executive Stuart Gulliver.

HSBC is aiming to streamline the bank's operations by focusing on high-growth markets in Asia. The firm said it had closed or sold 11 non-core businesses since the start of the year.

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In total, it has sold or closed 54 businesses since 2011.

By May, the bank had cut 46,000 jobs. It said that it would reduce its headcount to between 240,000 and 250,000 over the next three years.

The profit was slightly below analysts' expectations and the shares, which have risen by over 40% in the past year, fell more than 3% after the results were issued.

HSBC was boosted by a 35% drop in loan impairment charges and other credit risk provisions, compared with the same period last year.

"These results confirm the value which is being delivered from the continuing reshaping of the group and enforcing appropriate cost discipline," added Mr Gulliver.

HSBC said that despite the slower worldwide economic growth currently, it was "well positioned" to take advantage, once it picked up.

HSBC said it would pay a second interim dividend of $0.10 per share, taking the total for the first half to $0.20, up 11% on a year ago.

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said all the key figures, including headline profit and return on capital, were either "strong or improving".

"The statement is safe and dependable, as is the current aspiration of banking investors."

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