Spread of Sars forces HSBC board to hold crisis meeting

The board of HSBC Holdings, which owns two of Hong Kong's three biggest banks, is to meet this week to investigate the potential impact of the Sars (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus, which has killed more than 200 people worldwide. The report has been prepared by the bank's Hong Kong division and will be discussed at a board meeting in London on Friday.

David Eldon, the chairman of HSBC and Hang Seng Bank, said: "It's hard to say the actual impact on HSBC [because] this has been with us for a relatively short space of time. A lot is going to depend upon how quickly we'll return to a degree of what I would describe as normality."

HSBC has already introduced emergency measures to combat the potentially deadly flu-like virus, such as disinfecting its Hong Kong buildings at regular intervals, providing face masks to staff and discouraging non-essential travel. It has sent home 50 Hong Kong staff who definitely do not have the virus in order to create a reserve group of employees should the outbreak worsen.

The bank has temporarily closed branches in the areas worst affected by the disease and last month sent home more than two dozen staff from its headquarters after one was diagnosed with the illness.

The bank is also experiencing a surge in its internet banking service as customers try to avoid visiting branches. It is understood internet banking numbers are up by 40 per cent.

HSBC's Hong Kong units and their rivals are struggling to cope as the disease dampens growth in the city of seven million people. Hotels, restaurants and airlines have reported a slump in business as people try to avoid exposure to the infection. There have been concerns that the unemployment rate may rise as businesses scale back, causing a rise in defaults and bad-loan provisions.

More than 200 people have died because of Sars in Asia, most of them in Hong Kong and China, since the outbreak last month.

Mr Eldon, who heads up the group's main Asian operations, says the impact of Sars on HSBC is "immaterial" so far, partly because of its diversified operations globally. "The bank will only say something specifically about the impact of Sars if it's going to make a material difference to the results," he said.

Standard Chartered is also likely to be hit as it has substantial operations in South-east Asia. Banking analysts are expected to cut profit forecasts for banks with heavy Asian exposure as the economic impact of Sars spreads.

Two major metals conferences due to take place in the Far East have been postponed due to the outbreak. Metal Bulletin has postponed a conference that was due to take place in Shanghai between 22 and 25 April. The Cobalt Development Institute has called off its annual conference scheduled for Hong Kong on 14 and 15 May.

ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trade Desk Specialist (Linux, Windows, FIX, Finance, Networks)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (Linux, Windows, FIX...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Project Manager - ETRM/CTRM

£70000 - £90000 per annum + Job Satisfaction: Harrington Starr: Project Manage...

C#.NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL,MVVM, SOA...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform