HSBC: No decision made on moving
The chairman and chief executive of Britain's biggest bank HSBC has dismissed talk of a possible exit from the UK as "entirely speculative and presumptuous".
Douglas Flint and Stuart Gulliver issued a joint statement in a response to a claim that a major, unnamed investor told The Sunday Telegraph "a move is now more than likely".
HSBC, which has been headquartered in London for 19 years, warned key investors that the full-year results - which revealed a more than doubling in annual profits, below analyst expectations - made arguments for moving to Hong Kong "overwhelming", it was reported.
But Mr Flint and Mr Gulliver said London was its first choice location and "talk of imminent change in HSBC's position on this matter is entirely speculative and presumptuous".
They said: "London continues to be widely recognised as one of the world's leading international financial centres, a position it has built over many decades through deliberate policy action. We have been very clear that it is our preference to remain headquartered here.
"We are, however, in light of possible regulatory changes and additional costs such as the bank levy, being increasingly asked by shareholders and investors about the likely additional cost of being headquartered in the UK.
"We are very clear that the City of London's competitive position deserves protection and HSBC will play a full part in this. We are encouraged by the UK Government's recent commitments to do the same."
The loss of HSBC's headquarters in London, although threatened for months because of the increase in financial regulations, would be a severe blow to the coalition Government which is relying on a private-sector-led recovery.
The group posted on Monday pre-tax profits of 19 billion US dollars (£12 billion) last year, up from 7.1 billion dollars (£4.4 billion) in 2009. But shares fell 5% as the figure came in shy of the expected 20 billion dollars (£12.3 billion).
Investors were also disappointed at HSBC's move to cut its profitability targets due to global banking regulations.