HSBC rules out Europe acquisitions
London, May 26, 2012
HSBC said it had no appetite to take advantage of turmoil in the euro zone and make big acquisitions there or anywhere else where rivals are selling major assets.
"We're good at running our own businesses, we're not so good at making acquisitions, so history suggests that we would do better to run our own firm and focus on that," said Stuart Gulliver, chief executive of Europe's biggest bank.
Gulliver was speaking after the bank's annual general meeting, where the bank sidestepped an investor backlash on pay on the scale seen by some rivals.
It said 10.2 per cent of shareholders voted against its pay plan, above the average for a FTSE 100 firm but down from 18.7 per cent last year. Including abstentions, 13.7 per cent failed to back this year's vote.
"It's not a vote without significance," Catherine Howarth, a private HSBC shareholder, said. "It's still sizeable. In historical terms these are high levels of dissent."
Howarth, who is chief executive of Fair Pensions, said she wants HSBC to discuss its pay plan with private shareholders, and not just big institutions.
"The remuneration committee seems to have done more to advance the financial interest of the board rather than shareholders," she said.
John Thornton, an HSBC director and head of the remuneration committee, defended the bank's strategy on pay, which was changed last year. "We believe we have now got a system where the interests of the senior people is now tied very closely to the shareholders."
A growing number of investors are voting down executive pay plans or showing their anger in what has been dubbed the "shareholder spring", reflecting public anger at rises when thousands are losing jobs.
Shareholder rebellions in the UK have ranged from media firm Trinity Mirror to oil explorer Cairn Energy, and Barclays saw more than a quarter of its shareholders revolt.-Reuters