HSBC share price up 2% after Q1 profit exceeds expectations

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HSBC Holdings PLC posted a 31 percent rise in first-quarter profit, beating estimates, bolstered by a surge in income in its core Asian business and as the London-headquartered bank managed to rein in costs. In addition, the bank set aside almost $ 900 million in the first quarter of previous year due to a judicial investigation into the sale of bad American mortgages.

HSBC Bank Canada also announced a final dividend of $180-million on its common shares for 2018, and a first interim dividend of $80-million for 2019, to be paid by June 30.

Profit before tax rose to $6.21 billion from $4.76bn in the same quarter a year ago, above the $5.58bn average of analysts' estimates compiled by the bank.

Flint, who became CEO in February 2018, is aiming to get more growth out of HSBC's existing worldwide network after years of restructuring and upheaval following the financial crisis.

Mr Flint, who took over as chief executive in February past year, said that HSBC had made a "good start to 2019" with a positive performance in retail and commercial banking and its global banking and markets business, which includes the investment bank.

HSBC also said expected credit losses in its commercial bank rose by $300 million thanks mainly to small corporate exposures in Britain amid ongoing uncertainty over the country's departure from the European Union.

The bank said it was making more investments in Asia to "support business growth".

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In 2018, the lender said it would invest up to $17bn over three years in areas including in China and technology, without affecting profitability.

In the first quarter, North America posted a pretax profit of $379 million compared with a loss of $596m in the same period past year, as the bank increased retail customer numbers and capitalised on its worldwide network, it said.

While the bank reiterated its financial targets for the year it said managing its costs would enable it "to meet risks to revenue growth, given the current uncertain economic environment".

The bank said the turnaround strategy for its US business, which has for years underperformed, was progressing, but the task remained its "most challenging strategic priority".

The bank makes three-quarters of its profits in Asia.

"HSBC has been one of the few banks reporting first quarter earnings that showed a favourable revenue mix", analyst Joseph Dickerson at Jefferies said.

So far this year HSBC is the sector laggard up just 3%, including today's 2% move, while Barclays (BARC) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) are up 9% this year and Lloyds (LLOY) is up 21%.

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