The bank's profit shrank mainly as a almost 13 percent rise in operating expenses outpaced revenue growth of 5.5 percent.
HSBC said the reason for the fall was due to a 13% increase in operating expenses compared to a year ago, related to the retail banking business in the United Kingdom and China.
HSBC - which made over 75% of its profits in Asia in 2017 - plans to grow its retail and corporate banking business in the region by hiring thousands of staff and opening new branches, a plan that has suffered some setbacks amid China's slowing growth. "Last year the rate of costs growth exceeded revenue growth until the full year, and that is very much the shape of what we expect this year to look like".
In 2017, HSBC returned a total of US$3 billion to shareholders through share buybacks and paid more in dividends than any other major European or American bank, while maintaining its capital buffers as revenue grew. HSBC's return on equity came in at 7.5 percent, lower than its target of 10 percent and below the last-reported levels at its closest rivals in size, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and BNP Paribas SA.
Friday's results underwhelmed investors and HSBC shares fell 2.5 per cent in early London trading to 703.7p.
The rising costs and subdued return on equity reported Friday underline the challenges.
Nevertheless, the first-quarter numbers still "represent a good start for 2018 for HSBC", Iain Mackay, HSBC's group finance director, told CNBC's Sri Jegarajah after the release of the results.
Its revenue for the quarter, meanwhile, climbed to $13.71 billion from $12.993 billion a year ago.
Good morning. Profits at HSBC fell by an unexpected 4 per cent in the first three months of the year as the bank missed City forecasts.
"We've got strong progression in terms of revenue across our four global businesses", he said.
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