IFRS 12 paras 20, 21, B12, B16, IAS 28 paras 40-43, disclosure on associates, and details of impairment review

HSBC Holdings plc – Annual report – 31 December 2020

Industry: banking

18 Interests in associates and joint ventures

1 Principal associates are listed on recognised stock exchanges. The fair values are based on the quoted market prices of the shares held (Level 1 in the fair value hierarchy).

1 In December 2020, HSBC purchased additional shares and increased its shareholding in The Saudi British Bank (‘SABB’) from 29.2% to 31.0%. SABB will continue to be accounted for as an associate of HSBC.

A list of all associates and joint ventures is set out in Note 37.

Bank of Communications Co., Limited

The Group’s investment in Bank of Communications Co., Limited (‘BoCom’) is classified as an associate. Significant influence in BoCom was established with consideration of all relevant factors, including representation on BoCom’s Board of Directors and participation in a Resource and Experience Sharing (‘RES’) agreement. Under the RES, HSBC staff have been seconded to assist in the maintenance of BoCom’s financial and operating policies. Investments in associates are recognised using the equity method of accounting in accordance with IAS 28, whereby the investment is initially recognised at cost and adjusted thereafter for the post-acquisition change in the Group’s share of BoCom’s net assets. An impairment test is required if there is any indication of impairment.

Impairment testing

At 31 December 2020, the fair value of the Group’s investment in BoCom had been below the carrying amount for approximately nine years. As a result, the Group performed an impairment test on the carrying amount, which confirmed that there was no impairment at 31 December 2020 as the recoverable amount as determined by a value-in-use (‘VIU’) calculation was higher than the carrying value.

Compared with 31 December 2019, the extent to which the VIU exceeds the carrying value (‘headroom’) decreased by $1.9bn. The reduction in headroom was principally due to the impact on the VIU from BoCom’s actual performance, which was lower than earlier forecasts due to the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak and the disruption to global economic activity, downward revisions to management’s best estimates of BoCom’s future earnings in the short to medium term, and the net impact of revisions to certain long-term assumptions. Both the VIU and the carrying value increased due to the impact of foreign exchange movements.

In future periods, the VIU may increase or decrease depending on the effect of changes to model inputs. The main model inputs are described below and are based on factors observed at period-end. The factors that could result in a change in the VIU and an impairment include a short-term underperformance by BoCom, a change in regulatory capital requirements or an increase in uncertainty regarding the future performance of BoCom resulting in a downgrade of the forecast of future asset growth or profitability. An increase in the discount rate as a result of an increase in the risk premium or risk-free rates could also result in a reduction of VIU and an impairment. At the point where the carrying value exceeds the VIU, impairment would be recognised.

If the Group did not have significant influence in BoCom, the investment would be carried at fair value rather than the current carrying value.

Basis of recoverable amount

The impairment test was performed by comparing the recoverable amount of BoCom, determined by a VIU calculation, with its carrying amount. The VIU calculation uses discounted cash flow projections based on management’s best estimates of future earnings available to ordinary shareholders prepared in accordance with IAS 36. Significant management judgement is required in arriving at the best estimate. There are two main components to the VIU calculation. The first component is management’s best estimate of BoCom’s earnings, which is based on explicit forecasts over the short to medium term. This results in forecast earnings growth that is lower than recent historical actual growth and also reflects the uncertainty arising from the current economic outlook. Earnings beyond the short to medium term are then extrapolated into perpetuity using a long-term growth rate to derive a terminal value, which comprises the majority of the VIU. The second component is the capital maintenance charge (‘CMC’), which is management’s forecast of the earnings that need to be withheld in order for BoCom to meet regulatory capital requirements over the forecast period, meaning that CMC is deducted when arriving at management’s estimate of future earnings available to ordinary shareholders. The principal inputs to the CMC calculation include estimates of asset growth, the ratio of risk-weighted assets to total assets and the expected minimum regulatory capital requirements. An increase in the CMC as a result of a change to these principal inputs would reduce VIU. Additionally, management considers other factors, including qualitative factors, to ensure that the inputs to the VIU calculation remain appropriate.

Key assumptions in value-in-use calculation

We used a number of assumptions in our VIU calculation, in accordance with the requirements of IAS 36:

  • Long-term profit growth rate: 3% (2019: 3%) for periods after 2024, which does not exceed forecast GDP growth in mainland China and is consistent with forecasts by external analysts.
  • Long-term asset growth rate: 3% (2019: 3%) for periods after 2024, which is the rate that assets are expected to grow to achieve long-term profit growth of 3%.
  • Discount rate: 11.37% (2019: 11.24%). This is based on a capital asset pricing model (‘CAPM’) calculation for BoCom, using market data. Management also compares the rate derived from the CAPM with discount rates from external sources. The discount rate used is within the range of 10.3% to 15.0% (2019: 10.0% to 15.0%) indicated by external sources. The increased rate reflects the net impact of updates to certain components of CAPM due to elevated levels of risk arising from the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak and the disruption to global economic activity.
  • Expected credit losses (‘ECL’) as a percentage of customer advances: This ranges from 0.98% to 1.22% (2019: 0.95%) in the short to medium term, reflecting increases due to the Covid-19 outbreak and BoCom’s actual results. For periods after 2024, the ratio is 0.88% (2019: 0.76%), which is slightly higher than BoCom’s average ECL in recent years. This ratio was increased to reflect trends in BoCom’s actual results in recent years of increasing ECL and of changes to BoCom’s loan portfolio.
  • Risk-weighted assets as a percentage of total assets: This ranges from 61% to 62% (2019: 61%) in the short to medium term, reflecting increases that may arise from higher ECL in the short term, followed by reductions that may arise from a subsequent lowering of ECL and a continuation of the trend of strong retail loan growth. For periods after 2024, the ratio is 61% (2019: 61%). These rates are similar to BoCom’s actual results in recent years and are slightly below forecasts disclosed by external analysts.
  • Operating income growth rate: This ranges from 3.5% to 6.7% (2019: 4.9% to 9.4%) in the short to medium term, and is lower than BoCom’s actual results in recent years and the forecasts disclosed by external analysts, reflecting economic pressures from the Covid-19 outbreak, global trade tensions and industry developments in mainland China.
  • Cost-income ratio: This ranges from 36.3% to 36.8% (2019: 37.1% to 38.8%) in the short to medium term. These ratios are similar to BoCom’s actual results in recent years and slightly higher than forecasts disclosed by external analysts.
  • Effective tax rate: This ranges from 7.8% to 16.5% (2019: 12.0% to 17.0%) in the short to medium term, reflecting BoCom’s actual results and an expected increase towards the long-term assumption through the forecast period. For periods after 2024, the rate is 16.8% (2019: 22.5%), which is higher than the recent historical average. This rate was reduced on expectations of a lower effective tax rate in the long term, reflecting BoCom’s actual results in recent years and forecast financial asset composition, and forecasts disclosed by external analysts.
  • Capital requirements: This was based on a capital adequacy ratio of 11.5% (2019: 11.5%) and tier 1 capital adequacy ratio of 9.5% (2019: 9.5%), based on the minimum regulatory requirements.

The following table shows the change to each key assumption in the VIU calculation that on its own would reduce the headroom to nil:

The following table further illustrates the impact on VIU of reasonably possible changes to key assumptions. This reflects the sensitivity of the VIU to each key assumption on its own and it is possible that more than one favourable and/or unfavourable change may occur at the same time. The selected rates of reasonably possible changes to key assumptions are largely based on external analysts’ forecasts, which can change period to period.

Considering the interrelationship of the changes set out in the table above, management estimates that the reasonably possible range of VIU is $18.2bn to $24.2bn (2019: $18.5bn to $22.8bn). The range is based on the favourable/unfavourable change in the earnings in the short- to medium-term, and long-term expected credit losses as a percentage of customer advances as set out in the table above. All other long-term assumptions, the discount rate and the basis of the CMC have been kept unchanged when determining the reasonably possible range of the VIU.

Selected financial information of BoCom

The statutory accounting reference date of BoCom is 31 December. For the year ended 31 December 2020, HSBC included the associate’s results on the basis of the financial statements for the 12 months ended 30 September 2020, taking into account changes in the subsequent period from 1 October 2020 to 31 December 2020 that would have materially affected the results.

The Saudi British Bank

The Group’s investment in The Saudi British Bank (‘SABB’) is classified as an associate. In June 2019, the merger between SABB and Alawwal bank (‘Alawwal’) became effective, which reduced HSBC’s 40% interest in SABB to 29.2%. On 3 December 2020, HSBC purchased additional shares in SABB, which increased the Group’s shareholding to 31%. HSBC remains the largest shareholder in SABB. Significant influence in SABB is established via representation on the Board of Directors. Investments in associates are recognised using the equity method of accounting in accordance with IAS 28, as described previously for BoCom.

Impairment testing

At 31 December 2020, the fair value of the Group’s investment in SABB of $4.20bn was below the carrying amount of $4.22bn. As a result, the Group performed an impairment test on the carrying amount, which confirmed no impairment. The recoverable amount as determined by a VIU calculation is $4.74bn.

The basis of recoverable amount

The impairment test was performed by comparing the recoverable amount of SABB, determined by a VIU calculation, with its carrying amount. The VIU calculation uses discounted cash flow projections based on management’s best estimates of future earnings available to ordinary shareholders prepared in accordance with IAS 36, which requires significant management judgement. A key component to the VIU calculation is management’s best estimate of SABB’s earnings, which is based on explicit forecasts over the short to medium term. This reflects the uncertainty arising from the current economic outlook. Earnings beyond the short to medium term are then extrapolated in perpetuity using a long-term growth rate to derive a terminal value, which comprises the majority of the VIU. Additionally, management considers other factors (including qualitative factors) to ensure that the inputs to the VIU calculation remain appropriate.

Key assumptions in value-in-use calculation

We used a number of assumptions in our VIU calculation, in accordance with the requirements of IAS 36:

  • Long-term profit growth rate: 2.85% for periods after 2024. This does not exceed forecast GDP growth in Saudi Arabia.
  • Long-term asset growth rate: 2.85% for periods after 2024. This is the rate that assets are expected to grow to achieve long-term profit growth of 2.85%.
  • Discount rate: 10.4%. This is based on a CAPM calculation for Saudi Arabia using market data. Management also compares the rate derived from the CAPM with cost of capital rates from external sources.
  • Management’s judgement in estimating the cash flows of SABB: Cash flow projections have considered the scale of the entity following the merger with Alawwal, current market conditions and our macroeconomic outlook.

Sensitivity of VIU to reasonably possible changes in key assumptions

At 31 December 2020, the Group’s investment in SABB was sensitive to reasonably possible adverse changes in key assumptions supporting the recoverable amount. The most sensitive inputs to the impairment test are set out in the following table. A reasonable change in a single key assumption may not result in impairment, although taken together a combination of reasonable changes in key assumptions could result in a recoverable amount that is lower than the carrying amount.