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HSBC steps up cost savings drive as quarterly profits rise

Banking giant HSBC has made $1.2bn (£741m) in cost savings in the last year as it cuts thousands of jobs worldwide, including the UK.

The bank, which employs 52,000 people in the UK, has cut 14,000 jobs since the first three months of 2011, including 3,500 so far this year, as the group rolls out a restructuring programme to cut layers of management and streamline its IT requirements.

Twenty jobs have been cut in Northern Ireland and one of two Belfast city centre branches shut down. Plans to open five new branches were also dropped.

HSBC, which wants to slash its workforce by 10% or 30,000 by 2013, said it made cost savings of $300m (£185m) in the first three months of the year.

The group unveiled pre-tax profits for the three months to March 31 of $4.3bn (£2.66bn), a 30% increase on the previous quarter but an 11% drop on the same quarter last year. The quarterly improvement was driven by a stronger performance in investment banking.

HSBC said it made a $468m (£290m) provision in the first quarter against payment protection insurance mis-selling claims, taking the total amount set aside to tackle compensation claims to $908m (£745m).

Revenues rose strongly in the bank's faster-growing regions, notably Latin America, Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific, which were up by 7%, 16% and 18% respectively.

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Group chief executive Stuart Gulliver said: "Markets remain volatile with high levels of debt and regulatory and political uncertainty in developed economies, contrasting with an encouraging outlook in faster-growing markets."