HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, on Monday reported a surprise pretax loss of $858 million in the fourth quarter of 2015, even as its full-year profits before tax rose to $18.87 billion from $18.7 billion in 2014. Net loss for the fourth quarter stood at $1.33 billion, compared with a net profit of $511 million a year earlier.
The loss compared with $1.95 billion profit forecast by analysts at Bloomberg, and the full-year pretax profits were below $21.8 billion estimate by Reuters. However, despite reporting weaker-than-expected results, the bank proposed an increase in 2015 dividends — to 51 cents a share against 50 cents a year earlier.
The London-based bank also said that net profit for the year was $13.52 billion, down from $13.69 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, its revenue declined to $59.8 billion in 2015 from $61.25 billion a year earlier.
“2015 was marked by some seismic shifts in global economic conditions, most notably the continuation of a sharp decline in commodity and oil prices, in part attributable to growing concerns over China’s slowing economic growth. As a consequence, monetary policy remained accommodative throughout the major developed economies and key currency interest rates remained at historically low levels,” HSBC Chairman Douglas Flint said in a statement. “Against this backdrop, the Group’s financial performance in 2015 was broadly satisfactory.”
Over the past year, HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver has been trying to improve the bank’s profitability by pulling out of several countries, scaling back its low-earnings businesses and slashing jobs. In June, HSBC announced that it would axe 25,000 jobs around the world in its effort to reduce costs and streamline its business.
“HSBC is better balanced, better connected and better placed to capitalize on higher-return businesses than it was 12 months ago,” Gulliver said in a statement. “We are generating higher income from collaboration between businesses and our operating expenses and capital ratio are trending in the right direction.”