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HSBC chairman bows out in style

SIR William Purves bowed out as chairman of HSBC yesterday with an upbeat trading statement, delivered to shareholders at the bank's annual general meeting.

"Performance in the first quarter of this year was in line with our plan, with some entities slightly ahead of expectations", Sir William said. However, the HSBC chief admitted that the Asian crisis could still damage the group's results.

"Fallout from the economic downturn in Asia continues to emerge," Sir William told shareholders.

Shares in HSBC, owner of Midland Bank, have taken a pounding in recent days in the face of renewed turbulence in the Asian region. Yesterday though, the bank's shares fared better, closing up 57p at 1,600p. HSBC is also listed in Hong Kong and does much of its business in Asia.

Sir William - who has been with HSBC for 44 years - said the bank had yet to use any of the provisions it had made against potential bad debts in Asia.