Should You Buy HSBC Holdings Today?

LONDON -- British banking leviathan HSBC Holdings  (LSE: HSBA  )   (NYSE: HSBC  )  continues to be stalked by bad news relating to trading improprieties. It was announced this week that authorities in Argentina are investigating claims the bank used fake receipts to carry out money laundering and tax evasion. This development follows the $1.9 billion fine the firm paid last year to settle a money-laundering suit in the U.S.

I believe, however, that the long-term prospects for the bank remain strong. HSBC is one of the least-exposed U.K. banks to the ongoing economic strife swirling on mainland Europe, while its global operations should continue yielding lucrative returns from emerging markets.

Developing geographies ready to power future profits
HSBC's full-year results released earlier this month showed pre-tax profits slipping 6% to $20.6 billion in 2012, which was caused by a 16.5% slide in profits from Europe to $3.4 billion.

However, the results did reveal continued growth in the lucrative markets of Asia -- profit before tax emanating from the bank's activities in Hong Kong and the Asia-Pacific region leapt 37% and 51% respectively last year, to $7.6 billion and $10.4 billion.

Combined with the 11.6% rise to $2.4 billion from operations in Latin America, developing regions now account for more than half of total profits. I expect surging GDP growth rates in these places to shove HSBC higher in coming years.

Bank on excellent earnings growth
City brokers expect earnings per share to ignite from this year onwards. Growth of 31%, to 64 pence, is expected in 2013 before advancing a further 12% next year to 72 pence.

I believe the current share price does not reflect these super earnings growth projections -- the bank currently changes hands on P/E readings of 11.2 and 10 for 2013 and 2014 respectively. Indeed, HSBC's bargain rating is compounded by a price/earnings to growth (PEG) figure of 0.4 and 0.9 for the next two years. A readout below 1 is broadly classified as decent value for money.

Deluxe dividend yields
HSBC is also an attractive proposition for income investors. Last year, the company hiked its dividend some 10%, to around 31.3 pence per share, and broker forecasts put the 2013 and 2014 payouts at 32.4 pence per share and 36.5 pence per share respectively.

Although projected dividend growth is down from that realised in 2012, the estimated payouts still represent yields of 4.5% and 5.1% for the next two years, well north of the 3.5% FTSE 100 average.

Furthermore, prospective payments are also well protected, with coverage of 2 times for the next two years, bang on the readout deemed to provide stellar investor protection.

The expert view to growth elsewhere
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