Update HSBC (HSBC)

08/19/2009 10:30 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

One half of HSBC's (HSBC) business is performing beautifully. Unfortunately, it's not the part that I most want to own.

On August 3, HSBC reported second quarter earnings that showed that its investment banking and trading had doubled its pre-tax profit for the first half of 2009. For the division in charge of that business, the Global Banking and Markets group, that added up to a $6.3 billion pre-tax profit. That was enough to push the bank as a whole into the black with earnings of 21 cents a share.

In the rest of the business restructuring remained the order of the day.

The company took a charge of $13.9 billion for losses in its North American retail banking and mortgage lending operations as the company continues to exit the mortgage market and cut back on North American operations in favor of its traditional core strength in Asia.

That strength in Asia is one of the reasons that the bank is in The Jubak Picks 50 portfolio.

On that front, the bank showed some progress. In the first half 52% of earnings came from Asia and the bank added $17 billion in customer accounts in Hong Kong, India, and China in the first half of 2009.

But the bank is still a small player in China, the big prize in the region. All foreign banks are, let's be clear. China only "fully" opened its banking industry to overseas banks in December 2006. Today overseas banks account for about 2.2% of total banking assets in China.

HSBC now has 88 outlets in China, up from 79 at the end of 2008.

The other reason to own this stock for the long term is that HSBC is one of the world's great deposit gathering machines. That hasn't changed in this crisis. In the second quarter the bank announced a loan to deposit ratio of just 80%. With so much more money coming in as deposits than going out as loans, the bank is well positioned to expand in Asia as the global economy recovers.

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