Nissan board says CEO has resigned, successor to be named

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa is suspected of improperly adding ¥47 million ($440,000) to his compensation by altering the terms of a bonus. (AFP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Nissan board says CEO has resigned, successor to be named

  • Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa’s reported decision to step down comes days after he admitted receiving overpayments
  • Saikawa is suspected of improperly adding ¥47 million ($440,000) to his compensation

YOKOHAMA, Japan: Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa tendered his resignation Monday after acknowledging that he had received dubious income and vowed to pass the leadership of the Japanese automaker to a new generation.

Board member Yasushi Kimura told reporters at an evening news conference at company headquarters in Yokohama that the board has approved Saikawa’s resignation, effective Sept. 16, and a successor will be appointed next month. A search is underway, he added.

Calls for Saikawa’s resignation, which arose after the arrest last year of his predecessor, Carlos Ghosn, on various financial misconduct allegations, have grown louder after Saikawa acknowledged last week that he had received dubious payments.

The income was linked to the stock price of Nissan, and he has said his pay got inflated by illicitly adjusting the date for cashing in.

The automaker’s board met to look into the allegations against Saikawa, as well as other issues related to Ghosn’s allegations and corporate ethics at the company.

Kimura said the income Saikawa had received was confirmed as “not illegal.”

Ghosn, who is out on bail and awaiting trial, says he’s innocent.

Saikawa has not been charged.

“I have been trying to do what needs to be done so that I can pass the baton over as soon as possible,” he told reporters earlier in the day, referring to his willingness to leave his job.

He did not attend the news conference.

Saikawa has said he didn’t know about the improprieties, promised to return the money and blamed the system he said Ghosn had created at Nissan for the dubious payments.

Japanese media reports said Saikawa had received tens of millions of yen (hundreds of thousands of dollars) in extra compensation.

Ghosn has been charged with falsifying documents on deferred compensation, which means he did not receive any of the money.

Nissan’s profits and sales have tumbled over the past year. Investors are also worried about Nissan’s relationship with alliance partner Renault of France, which owns 43 percent of Nissan. Ghosn was sent in by Renault to lead Nissan two decades ago.


HSBC profit slump adds to bank sector coronavirus woes

Updated 04 August 2020

HSBC profit slump adds to bank sector coronavirus woes

  • London-based bank reports massive slump in net profit, plans to slash 35,000 jobs

LONDON: HSBC on Monday reported a 69-percent slump in net profit, joining a number of major banks whose earnings have been slammed by the coronavirus fallout.

HSBC announced earnings of $3.1 billion compared with almost $10 billion in the first 6 months of 2019, as spiraling China-US tensions also hurt the British-based but Asia-focused lender.

Alongside HSBC results, top French bank Societe Generale on Monday announced a second quarter loss of more than €1 billion as the pandemic forced it to set aside more provisions against bad loans. UK banks Barclays, Lloyds and NatWest all last week reported huge financial hits linked to the pandemic’s fallout.

But there have been some bright spots, with French bank BNP Paribas weathering the coronavirus storm in the second quarter with only a small dip in net profits thanks to a surge in investment banking.

Credit Suisse meanwhile saw net profit jump almost a quarter in the April-June period, also on investment banking gains.

HIGHLIGHT

$1 BILLION - Alongside HSBC results, top French bank Societe Generale on Monday announced a second-quarter loss of more than €1 billion as the pandemic forced it to set aside more provisions against bad loans.

“HSBC has done little to lift investors’ spirits as it brings the curtain down on what has been a costly half-year reporting season for banks in general,” noted Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

Even though banks “are much better prepared for this economic onslaught than during the financial crisis of over a decade ago ... the immediate outlook is bleak,” he added.

HSBC said that its pre-tax profit slid 64 percent to $4.3 billion in the first half while revenue was down 9 percent at $26.7 billion.

The figures missed analyst forecasts and the bank also raised its estimate for 2020 loan losses to $13 billion from $8 billion.

CEO Noel Quinn described the first 6 months of the year as “some of the most challenging in living memory.” He added: “Our first-half performance was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, falling interest rates, increased geopolitical risk and heightened levels of market volatility.”

Even by the standards of the current economic maelstrom engulfing global banks, HSBC has had a torrid time.

Before the coronavirus crisis it was beset by disappointing profit growth, ground down by US-China trade war uncertainties and Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The London-headquartered bank embarked on a huge cost-cutting initiative at the start of the year, including plans to slash about 35,000 jobs as well as trimming fat from less profitable divisions, primarily in the United States and Europe.

The coronavirus upended some of that cost-cutting drive with banks hammered by market volatility and the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic.

But HSBC has a further headache — geopolitical tensions via its status as a major business conduit between China and the West.

HSBC makes 90 percent of its profit in Asia, with China and Hong Kong being the major drivers of growth.

As a result it has found itself more vulnerable than most to the crossfire caused by the increasingly bellicose relationship between Beijing and Washington.

The bank has tried to stay in Beijing’s good graces. It vocally backed a draconian national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in June to end a year of unrest and pro-democracy protests. The move sparked criticism in Washington and London but analysts saw it as an attempt to protect its access to China, which has a track record of punishing businesses that do not toe Beijing’s line.

But that has not shielded it from Beijing’s wrath. Quinn referenced the bank’s growing political vulnerability in Monday’s results statement.

“Current tensions between China and the US inevitably create challenging situations for an organization with HSBC’s footprint,” he said.

“However, the need for a bank capable of bridging the economies of East and West is acute, and we are well placed to fulfil this role,” he added.