BANKING GIANT HSBC has said it is considering whether to move its headquarters out of the UK.
Europe’s biggest bank said it was prompted by “regulatory and structural changes” in the industry.
Shareholders have put pressure on the bank to consider moving its headquarters back to Asia – where it makes some 80% of its profit – due to factors such as the raising of the bank levy, an underperforming share price and the need to separate its British retail business from the rest of the group by 2019.
HSBC chairman Douglas Flint, speaking at its AGM at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London, said: “The board has therefore now asked management to commence work to look at where the best place is for HSBC to be headquartered in this new environment,” he said.
“The question is a complex one and it is too soon to say how long this will take or what the conclusion will be; but the work is underway.”
The bank, whose profits plunged around 17% in 2014, has had its headquarters in the UK since 1992.
Last year it was compelled to pay $2.4bn in fines and settlements due to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance and foreign exchange manipulation and faced claims some of its customers evade UK tax through HSBC accounts in Geneva.