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 2019

Industry: banking

18 Interests in associates and joint ventures

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1 During 2019, HSBC increased its shareholding in HSBC Saudi Arabia, which is now recognised as a subsidiary.

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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).

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1 In June 2019, the merger between The Saudi British Bank (‘SABB’) and Alawwal bank (‘Alawwal’) became effective. The merger involved SABB issuing a fixed number of new shares to Alawwal’s shareholders in exchange for the transfer of Alawwal’s net assets and cancellation of its shares. HSBC’s 40.0% interest in SABB reduced to 29.2% of the combined entity, resulting in a dilution gain of $828m recognised in HSBC’s consolidated income statement. The dilution gain represents the difference between the carrying amount of HSBC’s interest in SABB that was derecognised proportionate to the percentage reduction, and HSBC’s share of the increase in the combined entity’s net assets. The combined entity continues to be 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 via representation on BoCom’s Board of Directors and participation in a technical cooperation and exchange programme (‘TCEP’). Under the TCEP, a number of 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 2019, the fair value of the Group’s investment in BoCom had been below the carrying amount for approximately eight years. As a result, the Group performed an impairment test on the carrying amount, which confirmed that there was no impairment at 31 December 2019 as the recoverable amount as determined by a value-in-use (‘VIU’) calculation was higher than the carrying value.

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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 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 in 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% (2018: 3%) for periods after 2023, which does not exceed forecast GDP growth in mainland China and is consistent with forecasts by external analysts.
• Long-term asset growth rate: 3% (2018: 3%) for periods after 2023, which is the rate that assets are expected to grow to achieve long-term profit growth of 3%.
• Discount rate: 11.24% (2018: 11.82%). 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 10.0% to 15.0% (2018: 10.4% to 15.0%) indicated by external sources.
• Expected credit losses as a percentage of customer advances: 0.95% (2018: ranges from 0.73% to 0.79%) in the short to medium term and reflect increases due to the US-China trade tensions and BoCom’s actual results. For periods after 2023, the ratio is 0.76% (2018: 0.70%). This ratio was increased to provide greater weighting to the most recent data points and analyst forecasts.
• Risk-weighted assets as a percentage of total assets: 61% (2018: 62%) for all forecast periods. This is consistent with BoCom’s actual results and slightly higher than the forecasts disclosed by external analysts.
• Cost-income ratio: ranges from 37.1% to 38.8% (2018: 38.7% to 39.0%) in the short to medium term. This is slightly above BoCom’s actual results in recent years and within the range of forecasts disclosed by external analysts.
• Effective tax rate: ranges from 12.0% to 17.0% (2018: 13.8% to 22.3%) in the short to medium term reflecting BoCom’s actual results and an expected increase towards the long-term assumption. For periods after 2023, the rate is 22.5% (2018: 22.5%), which is slightly higher than the historical average.
• Capital requirements: Capital adequacy ratio of 11.5% (2018:11.5%) and tier 1 capital adequacy ratio of 9.5% (2018: 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:

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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.

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1 Based on management’s explicit forecasts over the short to medium term.
2 Amounts at 31 December 2018 have been updated to align with the 2019 approach to describe the impact of the change in isolation.

Considering the interrelationship of the changes set out in the table above, management estimates that the reasonably possible range of VIU is $18.5bn to $22.8bn (2018: $15.5bn to $19.6bn). 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 2019, HSBC included the associate’s results on the basis of the financial statements for the 12 months ended 30 September 2019, taking into account changes in the subsequent period from 1 October 2019 to 31 December 2019 that would have materially affected the results.

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Associates and joint ventures
For the year ended 31 December 2019, HSBC’s share of associates’ and joint ventures’ tax on profit was $314m (2018: $306m). This is included within ‘Share of profit in associates and joint ventures’ in the consolidated income statement.