What to watch: HSBC shakeup, Savills profit hit, and Co-op Bank losses

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
An HSBC branch bank in the financial district in New York, US. Photo: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

HSBC shakeup at the top

Barry O’Byrne has been named as interim head of HSBC’s (HSBA.L) global banking division, replacing Noel Quinn after he became the bank’s interim chief executive.

It comes after John Flint left the CEO post after just 18 months in the role earlier this week, in an announcement that took many by surprise.

O’Byrne was previously group general manager and chief operating officer.

He will join HSBC's group management board in his new interim role, which is subject to approval from regulators, according to Reuters.

Savills hit by Brexit and trade tensions

Property agent Savills (SVS.L) has blamed “political and economic uncertainty” in Britain and Hong Kong as it posted a 12% drop in underlying half-year profits before tax.

Uncertainty over Brexit and the political upheaval in Hong Kong took its toll and “considerably reduced the volume of real estate trading activity in recent months,” according to group chief executive Mark Ridley.

Ridley said that “occupier demand remains robust.” Profits dropped to £38.4m for the six months to 30 June.

“Underlying demand for the secure income qualities of real estate remains high, but these macro uncertainties weigh on investor sentiment and make predictions in respect of near term market activity difficult to determine with accuracy,” said Ridley.

Co-operative Bank slides to £2.8m loss

Pedestrians walk past a branch of the Co-operative Bank in London. Photo: Alastair Grant/AP

The Co-operative Bank is reporting an underlying loss of £2.8m for the first half of 2019, compared to a £11.2m profit last year.

The group also made a statutory loss before tax of £38.5m for the first half, narrower than the £39.5m loss a year ago.

The bank said the losses were “favourable to expectations” and its priority was to return to profit as soon as possible.

“We’ve delivered a positive first-half financial performance that is ahead of expectations and, although loss-making overall, is near break-even on an underlying basis,” said chief executive Andrew Bester.

“We have seen margin headwinds this year so far but our safe lending book provides resilience in what is a challenging retail banking market and an ongoing uncertain political and economic backdrop.”

Hargreaves Lansdown calls on Woodford to scrap fees

The boss of investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.L) has urged Neil Woodford to cease charging fees to customers stuck in his frozen flagship fund.

Hargreaves CEO Chris Hill said in the company’s annual report on Thursday: “We waived our platform administration fee on direct holdings in this fund and we believe that Woodford Investment Management should suspend collecting its fees whilst their investors cannot access their cash.”

Hill also confirmed that he and chief financial officer Phil Johnson are waiving their annual bonuses this year in the wake of the scandal.

Hargreaves Lansdown also reported a 7% rise in revenue to £480.5m in the year to 30 June, and a 5% rise in pre-tax profit to £305.8m.

Net new business fell by 4% to £7.3bn and total assets under administration increased by 8% to £99.3bn.

European and Asian markets higher

European stocks are showing further signs of the recovery that began on Wednesday, after several days of losses linked to escalated tensions between the US and China.

The Euronext 100 (^N100 ) and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) were both up 1%, while Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.7%. But Britain’s FTSE 100 (^FTSE) index was flat.

Overnight in Asia Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) was up 0.4%, China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) up 0.9%, and the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) was up 0.5%.

What to expect in the US

US stocks look set for a higher open on Monday. S&P500 futures (ES=F) were up 0.3%, Dow Jones futures (YM=F) were 0.2% higher and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were up 0.5%.