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Breaking the bank

The many lessons – and conundrums – of the investment case for HSBC shares
Breaking the bank

As globalisation and diplomacy list under renascent nationalism, Britain strikes out on its own. An ascendant China plays hard ball, forcing America to do the same. Global temperatures creep up while economies slowly shift toward a new energy system. Executives of multinationals try to balance these complex and often conflicting interests, as investors aspire to ever-higher corporate standards.  

For anyone keen to understand the colliding worlds of US-China relations, the UK’s role outside the European Union, the value-versus-growth debate and the ultimate use of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, one London-listed stock provides an unparalleled guide. HSBC (HSBA) is many things: storied, hugely powerful and yet oddly vulnerable. Trading at just over half its record market value, it is also an unpopular company among equity investors, despite possessing what is arguably a far stronger future earnings profile than many of its banking peers.

A walk through the jetway of an inbound international flight to London Heathrow gives you a good feel for its business pitch. Every three feet, a poster reminds you of a sprawling global banking network, leading position as a trade financier and commitment to myriad geographies. In the words of one investor, the bank’s “unique selling point is its international network, which it makes good money from”.

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