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Time to build a banking empire

Branches in Asia: 176 (excluding Hong Kong)
Present in: 17 countries

Asian loan book: $31.9 billion HSBC's reputation in Asia rests on its 130-year history in the region and its far-sighted approach to the business. "The bank has the advantage of history and of years, if not decades, operating in many Asian countries," says Roy Ramos, regional bank analyst at Goldman Sachs. "In some cases, such as Malaysia and Singapore, Hongkong Bank is very much part of the banking fabric, operating almost like a domestic bank."

Asia excluding Hong Kong contributed only 2% of the bank's total profit in the bank's most recent figures. The figure for 1996 was 13%.

HSBC's chairman, John Bond, believes that the crisis in Asia will strengthen the bank's position in the long term. "What is going on in Asia will buttress relationship banking, and in my view that is good news," he told Euromoney in September, at the height of the crisis.

The bank has a history of making acquisitions when valuations are low. But does Bond think it is possible for HSBC to make the most of acquisition opportunities in Asia today without there being a political backlash? "It's perfectly possible for somebody like us who has shown a commitment to some of the countries that are going through a period of difficulty," he said.

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