by Ellen Davnall

HSBC today announced its Annual Results for 2010, revealing pre-tax profits of £11.7 billion, more than doubling last year's total. The bank also saw a return to profitability in every customer group and region for the first time since 2006.

Earlier this month, rival bank Barclays announced pre-tax profits of £6.1bn, a growth of only 32%.

HSBC's report warned, however, of the probable reduction in return on average shareholders equity, setting the bank's target at 12-15%, lower than had been expected. This was explained as a consequence of the Basel III proposals for banks to hold increased capital.

These results come in spite of HSBC not receiving any direct government support during the banking crisis, a fact highlighted in its report.

Douglas Flint, Group Chairman, hinted at his reasons why HSBC had avoided requiring a public bail-out when he said in his statement that, "Banking is not simply about money. It is about helping individuals and organisations within society to meet personal and corporate objectives by facilitating access to financial capital and protecting value for those who make capital available.

"Somehow, many participants and not just banks, lost sight of this basic principle in the run-up to the recent financial crisis and the consequences for all have, inevitably, been far reaching."

HSBC's insistence that they bear this bigger picture in mind, indicates an attitude ready to meet anticipated government and regulatory body legislation such as Basel III head-on. Flint remarked that, "There is no doubt that the scale of regulatory reform will bring many challenges, but it will also open new opportunities."

Shareholders, however, may be unconvinced, and early trading saw HSBC's shares drop 4.16%.