HSBC Dismisses Call for Strategic Change: Sources


Europe's biggest bank, HSBC Holdings, has rejected calls from an activist investor for it to review its strategy and shake up its corporate governance, people familiar with the situation said on Thursday.

Simon Robertson, the bank's senior independent director, met Eric Knight, the head of Knight Vinke Asset Management, on Wednesday and said the board supported the bank's strategy and there was no need to review it.

Robertson said non-executive directors also supported Executive Chairman Stephen Green in his role and agreed the bank needed a full-time chairman, the sources said.

Knight Vinke two weeks ago called on HSBC to revamp its strategy to increase its focus on Asia and consider selling businesses in Europe and North America.

HSBC was undervalued by as much as 50% and there appeared to be "a fundamental lack of ambition" among management, it said in a letter to the bank.

Knight Vinke took a stake of about 0.3% in HSBC and wants to get backing from other investors for its plans.

The firm said it would not comment while discussions with other HSBC investors were continuing. About 30 significant shareholders in the bank had contacted it, a spokesman said.

HSBC's Green has been outlining strategy to investors in Asia this week. The bank has said it is already in the process of increasing its focus on Asia and other emerging markets.

Knight Vinke said HSBC should consider buying out Hang Seng Bank's minority shareholders, but Green said on Thursday he was "very comfortable" with its stake.