HSBC Holdings Plc will consider whether to move its headquarters from London once the regulatory environment becomes clearer, Chairman Douglas Flint said.
"We are beginning to see the final shape of regulation, the final shape of structural reform and as soon as that mist lifts sufficiently, we will once again start to look at where the best place for HSBC is," Flint, 59, told a shareholder meeting in Hong Kong on Monday after one investor urged him to quit London.
HSBC, Europe's largest bank, has faced calls to move its domicile away from the British capital after the government increased the levy on bank's balance sheets for an eighth time this year. HSBC is hit the hardest ;by the tax and paid 750 million pounds ($1.1 billion) last year. Both the Labour and Conservative parties have pledged a more onerous tax regime for banks in their manifestos for the May 7 U.K. election.
HSBC rose almost 2% to 611.8 pence at 1:18 p.m. in London trading, erasing its loss for this year.
Standard Chartered Plc, another British bank that like HSBC makes most of its profit in Asia, is also being urged by Aberdeen Asset Management Plc, its second-largest shareholder, to relocate to Asia because of the cost of being in London.
HSBC postponed a review into whether it would move its headquarters out of London in 2012, saying that until the regulatory environment was clearer, a decision was impossible. Global regulators have been pressing banks to set aside more capital against potential losses to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis of 2008.
Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver also apologized to shareholders at the meeting for the scandal that's engulfed its Swiss private banking unit. He was criticized by British lawmakers after leaked documents showed the operation advised clients on how to evade tax. The bank, which paid out or set aside $3.7 billion for fines and customer redress last year, is also the target of a criminal probe in France into tax evasion.
While Gulliver said the bank is committed to increasing its dividend, Flint said extra tax limits the amount of money available. The bank paid $9.6 billion in dividends to shareholders last year.