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China's big four banks post solid Q3 results
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Oct 30, 2017

China factory activity slows in October
Beijing (AFP) Oct 31, 2017 - Chinese manufacturing expansion slowed in October after two consecutive months of acceleration, official data showed Tuesday, as weak demand weighed on the world's second-largest economy.

The manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI), a gauge of factory conditions, stood at 51.6 in October, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, compared to 52.4 in September, which marked a five-year high.

Anything above 50 is considered growth while a figure below that number points to contraction. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News had expected a reading of 52.

"Softer domestic demand was the main culprit" behind the slowdown, Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a research note.

October's week-long National Day holiday slowed down production and new orders growth, and energy and pollution-intensive industries shifted peak load or reduced production due to tightened environmental controls in some regions, NBS analyst Zhao Qinghe said in a statement.

But "the manufacturing sector continues to maintain an expanding momentum", he added.

Manufacturing activity in heavy industries in northeastern China was curbed due to capacity reduction and a pollution crackdown.

China has implemented tight controls on heavy industry in hopes of improving the country's notoriously bad air quality, which typically worsens in the winter months.

"Softer investment spending in response to slower credit growth and the unwinding of pre-Party Congress fiscal support" also cooled down economic activity, according to Evans-Pritchard.

President Xi Jinping emphasised deleveraging and environmental protection during the recently concluded Communist Party congress, with Beijing looking to transition from a debt-fuelled expansion model towards high-quality growth driven by consumption and innovation.

"The ongoing campaign to clean up financial leverage and the environment will have an impact on economic growth," Tommy Xie, an economist at OCBC Bank in Singapore, told Bloomberg.

October's data came after China registered slightly slower growth in the third quarter, with the economy expanding at 6.8 percent.

Analysts say a decision by the government to allow slower expansion would help lay the groundwork for tackling long-term economic issues such as soaring debt and property-led growth.

China's big four state-owned banks on Monday reported profit growth across the board in the third quarter, after President Xi Jinping emphasised the importance of the public sector earlier this month.

Net income at the four banks -- Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Bank of China (BOC), China Construction Bank (CCB), and Agricultural Bank of China -- all grew in the low single digits for July-September year-on-year, according to filings with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

ICBC, the world's largest bank by assets, reported a net profit of 75.0 billion yuan ($11.3 billion) for Q3, up 3.35 percent year-on-year.

The Bank of China's quarterly results were hurt by impairment charges and it reported the lowest net profit growth of the four, up just 0.10 percent year-on-year to 41.82 billion yuan (6.29 billion).

China Construction Bank's net profit rose to 62.9 billion yuan ($9.46 billion) for the quarter, up 4.1 percent year-on-year.

The Agricultural Bank of China's net profit rose to 51.42 billion yuan ($7.74 billion), up 4.89 percent.

Lending income at CCB, BOC and ICBC all grew more than 10 percent for July-September compared to the same period last year. BOC led the pack, with growth of lending income for Q3 up 15 percent.

"This quarter represents the banks' efforts to boost results to complete full-year targets," Hao Hong, chief strategist and head of research at Bocom International Holdings Co. in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News. "Banks are loosening credit despite all the talk about deleveraging."

The Bank of China was the only one of the big four banks to see its non-performing loan ratio tick upwards for the quarter, rising to 1.41 percent at the end of September, from 1.38 percent at the end of June.

The ratio is a focus for analysts worried about the rapid rise of debt in the Chinese economy.

The Agricultural Bank of China has the highest non-performing loan ratio of the four banks, standing at 1.97 percent at the end of the third quarter, down 0.4 percentage points compared to the end of 2016.

The Agricultural Bank of China, ICBC and Bank of China published their earning reports on Monday, while China Construction Bank released its results last week.

HSBC Q3 profits soar on booming Asia
Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 30, 2017 - Banking giant HSBC on Monday reported a massive jump in third-quarter earnings, as business booms in Asia and a huge restructuring drive bears fruit.

Pre-tax profit soared to $4.6 billion (4.0 billion euros) in the period from July to September from $843 million in the same period of last year, HSBC said in a statement.

Nevertheless, the comparable 2016 figure had been negatively affected by one-off factors such as huge writedowns and restructuring charges.

Adjusted for these, pre-tax profit fell by one percent year-on-year in the July-September period, HSBC said.

At the bottom line, the bank turned in a third-quarter net profit of $2.96 billion, compared with a year-earlier loss of $617 million, when the HSBC took a massive hit on the sale of its operations in Brazil.

The results come weeks after a new chief executive was named as part of a management overhaul.

John Flint, currently head of retail banking and wealth management, will take over as CEO from Stuart Gulliver in February, and has said he wants to "accelerate the pace of change".

Analysts said the third-quarter numbers were better than expected.

"I think HSBC is one of the best international banking stocks at this moment," Dickie Wong, executive director of research at Kingston Securities, told AFP.

"It is the third consecutive quarter that earnings and revenue have increased."

But while HSBC did well in retail and commercial banking, the group's performance in global banking and markets was down slightly in the third quarter.

London-listed shares in HSBC fell 1.63 percent to 7.36 at about 1200 GMT.

- Pivot to Asia -

The Asia-focused firm has been on a recovery drive to streamline its business and slash costs since 2015, including laying off tens of thousands of staff.

CEO Gulliver said the bank had "maintained good momentum in the third quarter", with higher revenue across its main global businesses.

"Our pivot to Asia is driving higher returns and lending growth, particularly in Hong Kong," he said.

The bank's strategy of expanding operations in the Pearl River Delta, an area of southern China where major cities such as Hong Kong and Guangzhou are situated, "is starting to obviously bear fruit for our shareholders", the chief executive told a press conference in London.

Asia accounted for just over 73 percent of HSBC's adjusted pre-tax profit in the third quarter of 2017, compared to just over 68 percent a year earlier.

"Regionally, it's Asia which is doing the heavy lifting for HSBC (...) its business primarily resides in the far east," said Laith Khalaf, analyst at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown.

- Brexit optimism -

CEO Gulliver painted a positive picture of the bank's preparation for Brexit, describing HSBC's position as "pretty good" compared to that of other banks.

"We're not seeing in our commercial banking business or in our global banking markets business any material negative impact from Brexit," Gulliver said.

HSBC is able to move "up to 1,000" employees to France, he added, where it has been operating for almost two decades.

While Gulliver said the bank's "assumption of a pretty hard Brexit" had not changed, he estimated the overall cost of Brexit to HSBC in coming years would be around "$200 million to $300 million".

Japan bank CEO quits over claims of $2.2 bn in bad loans
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 25, 2017
The head of a government-backed Japanese bank said Wednesday he would quit in response to an internal probe that found wide-ranging misconduct involving some $2.2 billion in shady loans. The report alleged that hundreds of employees at almost all of Shoko Chukin Bank's offices across Japan falsified documents to make low-interest loans to firms ineligible to receive them. The scheme was ... read more

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