(Bloomberg) — HSBC Holdings Plc, which draws more than two-thirds of its pretax income from Hong Kong, slumped as advisers to U.S. President Donald Trump discussed a potential move to punish banks in the city and destabilize the currency peg to the dollar.
Europe’s largest financial institution was named as a potential target, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo last month singled out Peter Wong, the bank’s Asia-Pacific chief executive officer, for signing a petition supporting “Beijing’s disastrous decision to destroy Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
“Disruption to the currency peg and dollar funding, with HSBC reporting in U.S. dollars, could erode revenue and accelerate material changes in its dual listing and structure,” Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Jonathan Tyce and Francis Chan wrote on Wednesday.
“HSBC’s to-do list remains considerable, though a wait-and-see approach — with November’s U.S. election the due-date — may be adopted for the latest peg and funding turbulence,” they wrote.
London-based HSBC has been walking a political tightrope as it seeks to expand in China in a bid to boost profits, shifting away from struggling operations in Europe and the U.S. The bank last month endorsed China’s new security law.
The U.S. clearing license is vital to HSBC’s global operations and the bank is one of the largest international lenders operating in America. HSBC recently hired James Forese, a former senior executive at Citigroup Inc., to its board as it looks to revamp its global business including its underperforming U.S. unit.
HSBC is also the largest note-issuing bank in Hong Kong, putting it at more risk than Standard Chartered Plc. and BOC Hong Kong Holdings Ltd. should the U.S. limit their ability to buy dollars.
HSBC announced last month it would revive a massive cost reduction plan that had been put on halt due to the virus. The bank plans to shrink U.S. retail, French and non-ring fenced U.K. exposure, and cut about 35,000 roles globally.
In a statement on its official WeChat account in June, the bank pledged to continue to invest and support the Chinese economy after speculation in local media that its massive restructuring plan would mean an exit from China.
Some top advisers to President Donald Trump want the U.S. to undermine the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the U.S. currency to punish China for recent moves to chip away at Hong Kong’s political freedoms, according to people familiar with the matter. The proposal, however, hasn’t been elevated to the senior levels of the White House, and faces strong opposition from others in the administration who worry such a move would only hurt Hong Kong banks and the U.S., not China, said the people.
HSBC fell about 4.3% in Hong Kong, making it the biggest drag on the benchmark Hang Seng Index. The bank’s stock declined as much as 4.3% in early London trading, extending this year’s loss to 36%. A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman declined to comment on the U.S. report.
(Adds more detail from Bloomberg Intelligence in fifth paragraph.)
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