As HSBC raises money, banks can expect haircuts all around

It is impressive that HSBC (HBC) can raise money -- over $17 billion. Most big money center banks cannot raise a dime and have to turn to central banks for capital. HSBC suffered losses in its most recently reported period, but it says the new capital will steady its balance sheet. Could be.

According to The International Herald Tribune, "HSBC made the announcement as it reported 2008 net income of $5.7 billion, down from $19.1 billion in 2007. The bank also cut its 2008 dividend by 29 percent to 64 cents a share."

But the new money comes with a very big cost, and it drove the stock down nine percent in trading in Europe. The capital being raised will be at a discount to the bank's current share price. That not only dilutes shareholders, it says the bank is not worth what the market said it was just a day ago.

The announcement shows that for large international banks, even good news can be bad news. It may be a lesson for American banks that need to raise capital. Even with their stocks down 80% or more, new money will not come in at market prices. That means if a U.S. bank raises money, shareholders can expect a substantial haircut.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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