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FILE PHOTO: The HSBC bank logo is seen in the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause/File Photo Image Credit: REUTERS

London: HSBC Holdings shareholders voted to reject proposals to shake up the bank that were put forward by a group of Hong Kong-based investors.

About a fifth of voting investors backed the call for HSBC to report regularly on the possibility of carving out its Asian unit, while 19.2 per cent supported lifting its dividend to its pre-pandemic level, according to figures published Friday after the annual shareholder meeting.

With only around half of shareholders voting, the results suggest that much of the support came from Ping An Insurance Group Co., which owns about 8 per cent of the bank and has spent the past year battling with HSBC to enact a series of reforms, including spinning off its Asian arm.

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HSBC Chairman Mark Tucker said shareholders had voted “overwhelmingly to support the bank’s strategy and draw a line under the debate on the structure of the bank.”

The board said it will continue to engage with shareholders “to ensure their views are understood” on issues where more than 20 per cent voted against them at the AGM, including the remuneration report, the ability to make political donations, and Tucker’s own reappointment. CEO Noel Quinn received a 19.3 per cent vote against him.

HSBC’s board had recommended investors vote against the two resolutions tabled by Ken Lui, leader of the Spin Off HSBC Asia Concern Group. Independent shareholder advisory groups Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Co. also advised their clients not to back the motions.

The AGM marks the latest flashpoint between the two sides. Both Tucker and Quinn reiterated their opposition to the Lui proposals in their opening statements at the meeting.

“Our analysis clearly demonstrated that such options would destroy value and put your dividends at risk,” Quinn said about strategic alternatives. “Our current strategy is the fastest and safest way to improve returns.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Lui said he wasn’t fazed by the vote result and would continue to push for change. He added that he had spoken to Ping An in a recent Zoom call, but his campaign had no financial support from the Chinese insurance group.

The meeting in Birmingham, England also attracted numerous protesters calling on HSBC to shift more quickly away from polluting companies.