* Q3 pretax profit at $4.6 bln versus $4.7 bln estimates
* Common equity tier 1 ratio at 14.6 pct at end-Sept
* CEO says pivot to Asia driving higher returns (Adds details on Asia business, operating expenses, context, stock price)
HONG KONG, Oct 30 (Reuters) - HSBC Holdings PLC on Monday signalled its pivot to Asia was paying rich dividends as quarterly profits leapt almost five-fold, creating a foundation for its new leadership to plan for growth after a tough period of post-crisis restructuring.
HSBC earlier this month chose veteran John Flint as its next chief executive, with its newly arrived chairman promoting an insider to drive revenue growth. Flint will take over as CEO in February next year.
With Flint, who spent much of his early carer in Asia, and regional veteran Chairman Mark Tucker at the helm, analysts expect the London-based bank's shift toward its second home market of Asia to accelerate.
HSBC has been able to grow its revenue again following a period of wider restructuring after the 2008 global financial crisis, that included scaling back its empire and shifting its focus eastwards.
Pretax profit was $4.6 billion in the September quarter, up from $843 million in the same period a year ago, HSBC said in a stock exchange filing. The profit was roughly in-line with analyst estimates of $4.7 billion.
The year-ago profit was significantly impacted by a one-off loss of $1.7 billion from the sale of its Brazilian unit, and adverse foreign currency movements.
On an adjusted basis - excluding any significant, one-time item - pretax profit dropped 1.4 percent due to higher operating expenses, the result of greater investments.
Reported pretax profit for the Asia operations rose 10 percent during the third quarter to $4 billion, while Europe narrowed its loss to $50 million from $1.6 billion in the year-ago period.
"Our international network continued to deliver strong growth ... and our pivot to Asia is driving higher returns and lending growth, particularly in Hong Kong," HSBC Group Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver said in the statement.
PEARL RIVER PIVOT
HSBC has been able to boost its capital buffer despite rolling out share buybacks, the latest of up to $2 billion in July, and sustaining dividends, showing it is ahead on its turnaround strategy that includes expanding in Asia.
The bank makes more than half of its profits in Asia, and its regional pivot is centred around China's Pearl River Delta region with billions in investment commitments and plans to bolster its retail and wealth management business.
Its customer base for retail banking and wealth management in mainland China had expanded by more than 70 percent so far this year, it said.
HSBC's common equity tier 1 ratio - a measure of financial strength - was 14.6 percent at the end of September, slightly lower than 14.7 percent at end-June this year, but in-line with analyst expectations.
The ratio is set to increase in the medium term, as the bank repatriates about $8 billion stuck at its U.S. subsidiary, following approval last year from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
HSBC posted a 5 percent drop in adjusted revenue in fixed income, currencies and commodities (FICC) business during the quarter. Some of its European rivals such as Barclays saw the same business decline by more than 20 percent in the period.
Hong Kong shares of HSBC were up 0.5 percent at HK$77.50, slightly ahead of the broader Hong Kong stock index, after the results. (Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee and Lawrence White; Editing by Stephen Coates)