Who owns HSBC Bank? UK financial giant’s share price and biggest shareholders explained as profits ‘triple’

The global banking giant said it has made more than £1 billion out of its £1 deal to buy the UK arm of Silicon Valley Bank in March 2023

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HSBC has posted a significant increase in its profits, thanks in part to its emergency takeover of the UK arm of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB).

The global financial giant’s latest filings, from Tuesday (2 May), show it made almost $13 billion (£10.4 billion) over the first three months of the year. It suggests the global banking system is in good health, despite recent fears about an impending crisis.

Three mid-sized US banks have gone out of business since March, jeopardising hundreds of billions of dollars held in personal and business accounts. SVB collapsed after a major hole was discovered in its balance sheet, with Signature Bank following just days later. First Republic Bank, which had survived the initial crisis, all but collapsed in April after its own first quarter results showed it had lost around $100 billion in customer deposits in just a few days in March.

So far, there has been only one casualty in Europe. Major bank Credit Suisse, which was already facing significant difficulties, had to be rescued by rival Swiss bank UBS amid fears its collapse would cause a global banking crisis.

So, who owns HSBC - and who are its biggest shareholders? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is HSBC?

London-headquartered banking group HSBC started life in 1865 as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. It was originally intended as a vehicle to promote international trade between the two highly influential Chinese port cities and the rest of the world.

The bank has since evolved into an international financial services giant with a presence pretty much everywhere. As it is publicly listed on the London, New York, Hong Kong and Bermuda stock exchanges, it has shareholders all over the world.

HSBC was founded in Hong Kong and still retains a presence in the city (image: AFP/Getty Images)HSBC was founded in Hong Kong and still retains a presence in the city (image: AFP/Getty Images)
HSBC was founded in Hong Kong and still retains a presence in the city (image: AFP/Getty Images)

In the UK, as well as the high street banking brand of the same name, HSBC owns First Direct. It has since absorbed the UK arm of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) into its operations. These retail banking brands are owned by a ringfenced subsidiary of HSBC Holdings, with a separate investment bank - HSBC Bank - also operating in the country.

They are separated as a result of post-2008 financial crisis legislation that means banks have to keep the riskier parts of their businesses away from the day-to-day banking services they provide. That way, if they get it wrong, consumers are protected.

Overall, HSBC serves 39 million people worldwide and 1.4 million businesses in 53 countries.

Who owns HSBC?

HSBC Holdings, which owns all of HSBC’s operations worldwide, is operated by a board of directors who are accountable to the bank’s shareholders. At the helm are CEO Noel Quinn and chair Mark Tucker. The board would have had to have rubberstamped the acquisition of Silicon Valley Bank UK.

The largest known shareholders in the business are major investment companies. The biggest of them all is Ping An Asset Management - one of China’s most influential investment companies.

With what is believed to be an 8.29% stake in HSBC - compared to 7.82% for the next largest shareholder Blackrock - it has a major voice on the direction it believes HSBC should take. This has not been without controversy in recent years.

HSBC is headquartered in London (image: Getty Images)HSBC is headquartered in London (image: Getty Images)
HSBC is headquartered in London (image: Getty Images)

Given the authoritarian Chinese state has far-reaching powers over what appear to be private companies, Ping An’s recent lobbying to spin off HSBC’s Asian business into a separate company has been seen by some as an attempt by Beijing to wrest control of the banking giant’s most lucrative subsidiary, although Noel Quinn has rubbished the theory.

Meanwhile, HSBC came under the spotlight during the Hong Kong democracy protests, as it appeared to back Beijing’s security crackdown in the city. It even froze some of the protesters’ bank accounts. At the time, it said: “When we get a specific legal instruction by police authorities in Hong Kong, or anywhere else, to freeze the accounts of somebody under formal investigation, we have no choice but to comply.”

Other major shareholders include US-based The Vanguard Group (3.31%), the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund (3.04%), Legal & General (1.2%), and State Street Global Advisers (1.04%).

How much are HSBC profits?

On Tuesday (2 May), HSBC published its results for the first quarter of 2023. These showed that the bank had pre-tax profits of $12.9 billion (£10.3 billion) between 1 January and 31 March - more than triple the figures it posted over the same period in 2022. Part of this figure includes a $1.5 billion (£1.2 billion) windfall from its acquisition of SVB’s UK arm.

HSBC has seen profits soar, thanks in part to its buyout of SVB UK (image: AFP/Getty Images)HSBC has seen profits soar, thanks in part to its buyout of SVB UK (image: AFP/Getty Images)
HSBC has seen profits soar, thanks in part to its buyout of SVB UK (image: AFP/Getty Images)

In a sign that fears of a global banking crisis are not being felt in the UK, HSBC announced it would be making its first quarterly payout to shareholders since 2019, and announced it would be buying back $2 billion (£1.6 billion) of its shares. It comes just days after First Republic Bank was seized by US regulators over concerns it would collapse.

In a conference call with the media following the results announcement, HSBC boss Noel Quinn said: “We do not believe that there is a global banking crisis on the horizon. We think there are some challenges that have been evidenced in some of the regional banks in the US, but we do not believe that’s systemic in the US, or across all banks.

“It’s all about having a balanced risk appetite and return aspirations. And I think normally when one gets out of sync with the other, and the pursuit is: ‘profit at the expense of a managed risk appetite’, that’s normally when challenges emerge. And therefore that’s the probably the lesson on SVB or some of the regional banks in the US.”

News of HSBC’s latest profits saw its share price jump by more than 5% to over £6.00 on 2 May.