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HSBC Keeps Focus on China, India
June, 02nd 2008

 HSBC Holdings PLC will maintain its focus on fast-growing emerging markets, including China and India, as well as in U.S. operations that target Hispanic customers, Chief Executive Stephen Green said.

Fast-growing emerging markets "will eventually represent 60% of our business," Mr. Green told shareholders Friday at HSBC's annual general meeting.

HSBC said the U.S. subprime-mortgage market remains challenging and that the bank will continue to close various businesses, an initiative it started early last year.

HSBC repeatedly has been attacked by activist investor Knight Vinke Asset Management for its exposure to the U.S. subprime market. Knight Vinke, believed to hold less than 1% of HSBC's shares, has called on the bank to dispose of its U.S. operations, an idea Mr. Green has said is "unthinkable."

"The bank is funding itself perfectly," said HSBC Finance Director Douglas Flint. He said HSBC is "comfortable it can access debt markets."

Much of the banking-sector's trouble stems from having to fund lending in the expensive wholesale market. Analysts have said HSBC isn't as exposed as many other banks, thanks to its extremely liquid Far Eastern businesses and its relatively modest market share in U.K. mortgages -- 3.6% at the end of 2006.

Mr. Green said Friday that it is difficult to determine the outlook for this year but that the bank sees opportunities, as well as risks, amid the financial turbulence. HSBC will make acquisitions where they "fit in with our strategy," he said.

Shareholders on Friday voted 90.2% in favor of a performance-related share-remuneration plan that had met with criticism. Under the plan, the bank's five directors could share 120 million, or about $240 million, over the next three years if certain targets are met.

Unions have attacked the bank for what they say is a large discrepancy between planned compensation packages for management and pay for regular employees. "These plans for rewarding senior management come at a time when some of the bank's work force are being given subinflation or zero-percent pay rises," said Graham Goddard, deputy general secretary of the Unite union.

In 2007, Mr. Green received total pay of 3 million, of which 1.75 million was bonuses. Chief Executive Michael Geoghegan received 3.54 million, of which 1.92 million was bonus-related, while finance chief Mr. Flint received 1.88 million, of which 800,000 was bonus-related.

 
 
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