Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank - once again

Britain's largest bank, HSBC, has signalled* its intention to move its headquarters back to Hong Kong where it was founded in 1895.

The bank's UK and European operations have been hindered by new taxes and regulations which have proliferated in the wake of the global financial crisis, and, of course, the European financial environment is fraught with unresolved sovereign debt and currency problems.

The move would be a major blow to London's standing as a financial center - and could be seen as symbolic of profound shifts in global wealth and prosperity away from Western Europe and the US and towards the Asian region.

HSBC's prospective move also reminds us that the time is rapidly approaching when Asian time zones will dominate global markets. Europe is particularly disadvantaged in this respect, as Asia goes to work when Europe is sound asleep. (Hong Kong - and the rest of China - is 8 hours ahead of London.)

* [added later] The signals, I must admit, are mixed. The original story - sourced to unnamed investors and carried by London's Sunday Telegraph - claimed that a move to Hong Kong was more than likely. Apparently, domicile is reviewed every three years, and the investors had noted a change of tone in favor of a move to Hong Kong. The bank has subsequently denied that any decision to move has been taken.