HSBC Asia spin-off, dividend proposals in focus at Hong Kong shareholder meet

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A logo of HSBC is seen on its headquarters at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China August 4, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

By Selena Li

HONG KONG (Reuters) – An activist Hong Kong investor’s demand for HSBC Holdings (NYSE:) PLC to spin-off its Asia business and increase dividend payouts will be in focus as the London-headquartered bank holds a meeting with shareholders in its biggest market.

Hundreds of the Asia-focused lender’s individual investors are set to attend the so-called informal shareholders meet in an exhibition centre in the Kowloon Bay district with Chairman Mark Tucker and Chief Executive Noel Quinn.

The meeting, to be held ahead of HSBC’s main annual general meeting in the British city of Birmingham on May 5, will discuss the bank’s 2022 results and “other matters of interest”, it said in a notice to shareholders last month.

The Hong Kong meeting this year is taking place against the backdrop of Ken Lui, an individual HSBC shareholder and leader of a Hong Kong-based investor group, calling for a break up of the bank.

Lui, who runs an education company in Hong Kong and said he is a long-term HSBC investor, is one of at least 100 investors calling for such a vote in the main May shareholders meeting, a letter sent to HSBC on Feb. 20 showed.

His second proposed resolution calls on HSBC to restore pre-COVID-19 dividend levels equivalent to at least 51 U.S. cents a share annually, from the 32 U.S. cents paid out in 2022.

Lui, the leader of activist investor alliance “Spin-Off HSBC Asia Concern Group”, will attend the shareholders’ meeting in Hong Kong and will also talk to the media, his spokesperson said.

“The Board recommends all shareholders vote against these two resolutions because they are not in the best interest of the company or its shareholders,” a spokesperson for HSBC, which is dual-listed in London and Hong Kong, said ahead of the meeting.

“We remain clear that our current strategy is the fastest, safest and most value enhancing way to deliver returns.”

The Hong Kong investor’s proposals echo calls by the bank’s largest shareholder, Ping An Insurance Group Co of China Ltd, to demerge its Asian division, which accounts for bulk of its revenue and profit.

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