The business on: Michael Geoghegan, Chief executive, HSBC

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The Independent Online

So he's globetrotting again?

Yup. HSBC's chief executive treated reporters to a lengthy lecture on what a wonderful job HSBC did in all the diverse territories in which he has worked during one of his first results presentations. He'd like to add South Africa to any future presentations he gives about the businesses of the "World's Local Bank".

So what's he up to out there?

Trying to get his hands on a controlling stake in Nedbank. Africa is a notable gap in HSBC's portfolio. While it has some operations there (it has some operations just about everywhere), they don't amount to much. Nedbank would make HSBC a force to be reckoned with on a continent which may yet confound the sceptics and show some impressive economic growth over the coming years.

Is it a done deal?

Well, HSBC's in exclusive talks to take control of the bank, whose majority owner is currently the insurer Old Mutual. It has decided that it has had enough of this banking lark (Nedbank's not been without its problems). Mr Geoghegan, who likes to tell people that Asia is the future at every conceivable opportunity, would dearly like to grab a piece of the rapidly increasing trade flows between it and Africa.

So what's the problem?

The South African regulators have already said they are going to take a very close look at any deal. Mr Geoghegan is very much a traditional banker, when compared to his ascetic and intellectual chairman Stephen Green. While he's the combative type, however, he's not without a certain charm. He's going to need it to convince them that HSBC's plans are good for a country that wants to ensure the black majority, shut out of commercial life under apartheid, gets a bigger stake in business

Why's that an issue for HSBC?

Maybe it's just us, but take a look at the executive directors who run a company whose name is derived from "Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation". They are all the same as Mr Geoghegan: white, middle-aged and male.