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Announcement:

Moody's Affirms HSBC Holdings (Senior at Aa2/P-1); Maintains Positive Outlook

22 Jun 2007
Moody's Affirms HSBC Holdings (Senior at Aa2/P-1); Maintains Positive Outlook

London, 22 June 2007 -- Moody's Investors Service today affirmed the ratings of HSBC Holdings plc (senior at Aa2/P-1) and selected subsidiaries including HSBC Finance Corporation (senior at Aa3; "HFC") and maintained a positive outlook on the company's long-term ratings. The outlook was originally changed to positive from stable in December 2005.

The ratings affirmation reflects the HSBC Group's excellent diversification, its strong and improving financial fundamentals, and its conservative risk profile. The acquisitions of the group over the last decade have resulted in greater diversification of earnings, and therefore greater protection from a downturn in one the group's main operations. Diversification is very strong both in terms of geographic presence and through the breadth of product lines and activities. Moody's believes that HSBC has established a successful track record in integrating acquired entities in recent years, although this track record has been blemished in 2007 due to problems at HFC (previously known as Household International).

Moody's said that while these strengths could potentially support a higher rating for HSBC, the rating agency believes that the company's overall risk management profile does not yet support a ratings upgrade. The ratings affirmation together with the maintenance of a positive outlook balances the aforementioned strengths and improvements with the need for HSBC to continue addressing risk management challenges that became more evident with the recent problems at HFC. While the group displays satisfactory risk management practices, we believe that ensuring that these are strengthened in line with both the evolving business profile and strategy of the group, and with similarly rated peers, is a key challenge for the group over the medium-term.

Moody's commented further that, following the asset quality problems at HFC, we believe that the credit processes of the group will receive management focus and will be strengthened. The rating agency views this as appropriate given the changes to the group's balance sheet and composition of earnings following the acquisition of HFC in 2003 and the group's strategy to increase its exposure to consumer finance globally. While this business is characterised by a significantly wider net interest margin than the group average, it also carries a higher level of loan loss charges and the potential for greater earnings volatility in the absence of a robust risk management framework.

On a group-wide basis Moody's noted that HSBC has consistently maintained a strong recurring earning power and has been able to withstand the periodic crises that have appeared in the markets in which it operates. HSBC's recurring earnings power, as measured by pre-provision operating income and excluding result from subsidiaries and associates to average risk-weighted assets, stood at a very healthy 3.6 % for the year 2006. With USD 31.8 billion of pre-provision operating profit, the group was able to absorb an increase of 36% in credit provisions from USD7.8 billion in 2005 to USD10.6 billion in 2006. This underscores and attests to the strength of the group's diversified and robust earnings profile, the rating agency said.

Moody's said a demonstrated strengthening in the group's risk management framework and processes while maintaining a financial profile in line with similarly rated institutions could lead to an upgrade of the long-term ratings. Conversely, further signs of relative weakness in the group's risk management processes, or a material weakening in the group's very strong financial fundamentals could put negative pressure on the ratings.

Based in London, HSBC Holdings plc reported total consolidated assets of USD1,861 billion as of 31 December 2006.

London
Lynn Exton
Senior Vice President
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

London
Adel Satel
Managing Director
Financial Institutions Group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

No Related Data.
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