China’s Ping An sells HSBC shares in US$50 million tantrum after reported protest vote against CEO Noel Quinn

China’s Ping An sells HSBC shares in US$50 million tantrum after reported protest vote against CEO Noel Quinn

China’s largest insurer Ping An Insurance (Group) has sold HK$392 million (US$50 million) worth of its shares in London-based HSBC in an apparent tantrum days after reports that the bank’s largest shareholder voted against the reappointment of the lender’s departing CEO Noel Quinn as a director.

Ping An sold 5,648,800 shares of HSBC, the largest of Hong Kong’s three currency-issuing banks, at an average price of HK$69.3074 on May 7, lowering its stake in the lender to 7.98 per cent from 8.01 per cent, according to a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange on Friday.

Ping An, HSBC’s largest shareholder, lodged a protest vote against Quinn’s leadership at a general shareholder meeting on May 3, Bloomberg reported on Sunday.

Quinn was reelected as a director with 83.93 per cent of the vote, according to the company’s meeting statement. HSBC reported that 16.07 per cent of the votes cast by investors were against Quinn’s re-election. That was roughly equivalent to Ping An’s holding in the bank, taking into account a turnout of 52.3 per cent of the total issued share capital.

Ping An did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A view of HSBC’s building in Central, Hong Kong. Photo: Nora Tam

Quinn will remain CEO of the London-headquartered bank until his successor starts in the role, and has agreed to remain available through to the end of his 12-month notice period expiring on April 30, 2025.

At the end of April, Quinn said he would retire as CEO of HSBC, after pushing Europe’s biggest bank to pay a larger dividend to its most important customers on the back of the second-highest quarterly profit in his five years at the helm.

Last May, HSBC prevailed in a contentious shareholder vote at its annual meeting in Birmingham, England, where no major shareholder other than Ping An voted in favour of splitting the lender’s Asian business.

The critical shareholder vote followed a year-long campaign by Ping An, the bank’s biggest shareholder, to shake up the lender amid frustration among some of its Hong Kong retail investors over the cancellation of its dividend four years earlier at the request of HSBC’s chief regulator in Britain.

Ping An, China’s largest insurer by market capitalisation, reported in March that its earnings fell for 2023 to their lowest level in five years, as strong sales of new policies were offset by setbacks in its asset management and technology investment businesses.

Shares of HSBC have gained 7.9 per cent to HK$68 this year, while Ping An’s stock has risen 16.7 per cent to HK$41.25 during the same period.



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