The bank's Hong Kong-listed shares fell by around 2 percent after the lunch break.
Other financial metrics that analysts and investors were watching:
- Net interest margin, a measure of lending profitability, was 1.66 percent as of Dec. 31, 2018. That's higher than the 1.63 percent seen a year ago.
- Earnings per share for 2018 was $0.63, higher than $0.48 a year ago.
- Common equity tier 1 ratio — a proportion of the bank's core capital to assets — as at Dec. 31 last year was 14 percent, compared to 14.5 percent at end-2017.
Despite missing forecasts, HSBC Group Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson said he was "very pleased" with the latest set of results. He added that the difficult trading environment at the end of 2018 resulted in lower fourth-quarter revenue compared to the previous three months.
Stevenson was referring to the sharp sell-off in global marketsin the fourth-quarter last year, which led to trading revenue losses in many banking groups.
"We were very much hit by adverse markets in November and December, which meant that we saw revenue drop by about a billion dollars relative to [the third-quarter]," Stevenson told CNBC's Joumanna Bercetche on Tuesday.
The lower-than-expected revenue growth also resulted in HSBC missing its positive "jaws" target for 2018. The jaws ratio is positive when revenue grows faster than costs. HSBC's jaws for the year was minus 1.2 percent.
"We were very disappointed to have missed that jaws target for the year," the CFO said, adding that the bank will continue to work toward achieving a positive jaws ratio in 2019.