You have to admire the guys at HSBC for their sheer nerve. They published their interim report today here, and you can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth as they tell the world that pre-tax profit was $7.5 billion, broadly in line with the first half of 2008, but that after allowing for value adjustments on their own debt, pre-tax profit was $5 billion, down 51 per cent on the first half of 2008 but significantly better than the second half of 2008.
Well first point if I may. If $5 billion is 51% down on last year, then $7.5 billion is nowhere near last year's first half figure, but more importantly look at the way liability value adjustments are proclaimed loudly on the front page of the interim accounts to explain why profit before tax is $2.5 billion worse than it properly should have been.
The funny thing is that when the adjustments were moving the other way, you had to look at pages 146 and 147 in the 2007 annual accounts to spot the $2.8 billion addition to the pre-tax numbers that boosted directors' bonuses as a result of the deterioration of HSBC's own credit.