It’s the not the first time that HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, has mulled moving its headquarters out of London because of what it calls an onerous British tax and regulatory environment. Nor is it the first time the idea of relocating HSBC’s HQ to Asia has been broached. But Douglas Flint, the global bank’s chairman, is renewing the speculation all over again. Another big British bank, Standard Chartered, may be considering a similar move.
“We are beginning to see the final shape of regulation, the final shape of structural reform and as soon as that mist lifts sufficiently we will once again start to look at where the best place for HSBC is,” Flint reportedly said at an informal shareholder meeting in Hong Kong on Monday. Hong Kong is mentioned as a possibility.
HSBC moved its domicile from Hong Kong to London in 1993.
Reuters quoted sources “familiar with the matter” as saying that both “HSBC and Standard Chartered, which is also based in London but makes most of its profits in Asia, are looking at the feasibility of quitting London for a new home in Asia because a big jump in the special tax levied on UK banks makes staying in Britain increasingly painful.”
Several investors reportedly said they want the two banking institutions to do a careful analysis on moving their domiciles out of Britain.
Bloomberg reported Monday that HSBC is facing pressure to leave Britain after the government upped taxes on the bank’s balance sheets for an eighth time this year. HSBC is said to be the local banking institution worst hit by the levy. It reportedly paid 750 million pounds ($1.1 billion) last year. Britain’s Labour and Conservative parties both say they would impose a harsher tax regime on banks as part of their platforms for upcoming national elections.