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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering