HSBC shares plunge to 25-year low on banks report, China fears

HSBC Holdings Plc slumped below its financial crisis low set more than a decade ago as pressures mount on several fronts including a potential threat to its expansion plans in China.

The London-based bank’s Hong Kong shares on Monday slid below their closing low for March 2009, hitting as low as HK$29.60, as they extended this year’s plunge to about 50%. Echoing a decline in London on Friday, its Hong Kong shares are trading at the lowest since 1995.

Europe’s largest bank is a possible candidate for China’s “unreliable entity list” that aims to punish firms, organizations or individuals that damage national security, the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper reported Saturday. A day later, HSBC was among global banks named in a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on lenders that “kept profiting from powerful and dangerous players” in the past two decades even after the U.S. imposed penalties on the institutions.

“If the company is listed as a unreliable company by China, which looks certain since it’s a Global Times article, the bank will be facing lots of difficulties to do business in China,” Banny Lam, head of research at CEB International Investment Corp., said by phone Monday. “They may have trouble expanding the mainland business, after investing so much there over the past few years.”

The bank has rankled China over its participation in the American investigation of Huawei Technologies Co. Penalties include restrictions on trade, investments and visas on companies, countries, groups or persons that appear on the list.

HSBC declined to comment on the Global Times article. In a statement Monday in response to the ICIJ report it said that “starting in 2012, HSBC embarked on a multi-year journey to overhaul its ability to combat financial crime across more than 60 jurisdictions. HSBC is a much safer institution than it was in 2012.”

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