HSBC set to be most profitable bank: Earnings of dollars 1.8bn beat newly revived American institutions

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The Independent Online
HSBC Holdings, owner of Midland Bank, is likely to be the most profitable bank in the world this year, according to IBCA, the credit rating agency.

HSBC's net profits of dollars 1.8bn ( pounds 1.2bn) put it ahead of the most successful US banks. An unexpectedly rapid recovery of the banking industry in the US last year allowed four of them - BankAmerica, JP Morgan, NationsBank and Chemical - to report net profits of more than dollars 1bn.

Not all the results of the world's largest banks are yet known, but Mark Gross, a senior vice president of IBCA, said HSBC was likely to be the only one outside the US to exceed the profits of the four. The group's profits were fuelled by the success in Asia of Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation.

But IBCA underlined the speed of the return to health in the US, where two years ago there were widespread fears of a chain reaction of bank collapses because of losses on property lending.

'We are confident that this showing will enable US banks to dominate the top places in the world rankings, as far as profitability is concerned, regaining the place they last held in 1988,' IBCA said.

The recovery was due equally to the US banks' heavy investment of low-interest deposits in higher-yielding government bonds and to a fall in bad-debt provisions.

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