Thursday, 9 October 2008

HSBC shows strength of Asian roots

There is, of course, a global financial crisis which therefore has affects on all major financial institutions. It is entirely correct for the left to point out the consequences of this and criticise policies that have led to it.
But it is also important to be accurate and to avoid exaggeration. The degree of accuracy in analysing the situation, and the practical conclusions that flow from this, not the degree of heat in rhetoric, or of hyperbole, is the touchstone of any policy - including any socialist one.
In the recent turmoil a number of US and British banks have collapsed either completely or essentially and have had to be taken over by the state or liquidated - Lehman Brothers, AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Northern Rock, Bradford and Bingley. A number of other institutions have declined to the point where they had to be taken over in order to prevent collapse - Merrill Lynch, HBOS. Others are in a deeply depressed financial state to the point where collapse may potentially threaten - RBS falls in this category.
However other financial institutions have suffered no damage on a scale that threatens their viability. In terms of the scale of its importance in the UK the most obvious example of this is HSBC.
HSBC has suffered no uncontrollable losses and as may be seen from the graph below no substantial fall in HSBC shares has occurred at all.

This is not remotely a marginal case. In terms of market capitalisation HSBC totally dwarfs 'British' competitors - at the close of the London Stock Exchange on 8 October the market capitalisation of HSBC was £105.9 bn compared to Barclays £23.3 bn, Standard Chartered's £16.5 billion, RBS's £15.1 billion, Lloyds TSB's £12.7 billion, and HBOS's £6.2 billion [1]
The reason for HSBC's strength, of course, is that it is in origin and much of its operations an Asian bank. Its origin is the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.
HSBC's strength shows one of the key features of the present international situation - the way the centre of economic gravity is shifting to Asia. But HSBC's strength should remind the left that while it is entirely correct in general to speak of a 'financial crisis' this does not remotely apply to every institution and precise analysis, not overblown rhetoric, is called for.

[1] Calculated from Google Finance 9 October 2008.

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