HSBC defuses Third World debt problem

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THIRD WORLD debt protesters yesterday disrupted the annual meeting of HSBC, the parent of Midland Bank, but were ejected by security guards when they attempted to invade the platform at the Barbican Centre in London.

One of the group of about 10 protesters, Catherine Muller, handcuffed herself to the chair of Keith Whitson, chief executive of Midland Bank, which was taken over by HSBC two years ago.

The Lloyds and Midland Boycott recently disrupted the Lloyds Bank annual meeting as part of its campaign against what it sees as the failure of banks to follow environmental guidelines in lending to the Third World.

A spokesman for HSBC said that after the Lloyds incident the bank was prepared for the demonstration. There were no arrests.

Sir William Purves, group chairman, said that rumours circulating in bond markets that HSBC's London bond trading subsidiaries had lost heavily this spring were untrue.

Difficulties encountered this year had been no tougher than for any other company, he said. Some bond market positions had been good and others bad, but looking at the overall picture the business was ahead of forecasts.

Sir William said that he expected the company to benefit from an improved business climate in the US and Britain, and from continued growth in the Asian economies.

He was also optimistic that HSBC was well-placed to benefit from the opening of markets in China and India.

The integration of Midland was going well and on target to meet its projected increased contribution to pre-tax profit of pounds 800m over the first four years, Sir William said.