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HSBC pre-tax profit tumbles 20%

HSBC, Europe's largest bank by assets posted a 20 percent fall in pre-tax profit to $6.8 billion in the first three months of the year, with the group adding it experienced muted customer activity in April.

Pre-tax profit was down from $8.4 billion a year ago as revenues in its investment bank fell, but just above analyst expectations of $6.6 billion

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Pedestrians pass a HSBC bank branch in London, U.K.
Matthew Lloyd I Bloomberg via Getty Images
Pedestrians pass a HSBC bank branch in London, U.K.

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The bank said revenue slipped to $15.88 billion for the first quarter of the year from $18.42 a year earlier, when earnings were boosted by a number of specific items.

Chief executive, Stuart Gulliver said while commercial banking saw revenue growth, in retail banking and wealth management revenues were impacted by changes in incentive plans and product pricing.

This time last year Gulliver warned some 14,000 jobs were at risk in an effort to overhaul the bank's costs, dividend payouts and profitability.

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Gulliver said that by 2016, he expects to employ around 240,000 staff compared to the 300,000 who worked at the bank when he started out as CEO in 2011.

However at the end of the quarter the bank hired an additional 1,100 employees reflecting continued investment in compliance and business growth initiatives.

Shares traded 0.76 percent lower shortly after the results.

The group said it achieved positive net new money in targeted areas of growth in global private banking and cut operating costs by 2 percent, but excluding one off items cost were up 2 percent.

Loan impairment charges fell to $798 million from $1.8 billion in the same period in 2013, primarily from reductions in North America and Europe, partly as a result of improving U.S. housing conditions, the group said. The rate of improvement was nevertheless lower than 2013.

"Loan impairment charges fell, reflecting the changes to the portfolio since 2011. Our return on equity was 11.7 percent," said Gulliver in a statement.

Other significant balance sheet movements in the quarter included a rise in trading assets and liabilities, mainly in Europe and North America, which reflected an increase in customer activity, the bank said.

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