HSBC confirms an employee in China infected with coronavirus

HONG KONG: An employee at HSBC Holdings Plc in China has been infected by the coronavirus, adding to the bank’s troubles after it partially evacuated its London office as another employee there tested positive.

In a memo to staff, interim Chief Executive Noel Quinn said that a Chinese employee has been in self-quarantine, “and is stable and recovering”.

The infected employee, who’s now in good condition, works at the bank’s Wuhan branch and hasn’t been in contact with any HSBC staff or customers since late January, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman said in an email.

Quinn is now leading regular meetings on the virus and the bank has set up a senior team of business continuity and medical experts to brief him and other senior executives daily, he said. The memo was confirmed by the spokeswoman.

First identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the coronavirus has claimed 3,300 lives and infected more than 97,000 people globally.

HSBC on Thursday reported the first case at a major London bank office, but didn’t specify what division was affected.

A person familiar with the matter said that it was the research department, and that trading floor operations are continuing as normal. Dozens of people have been evacuated, the person said, requesting anonymity.

HSBC had already curbed international business travel by its employees as well as temporarily closed some branches in Hong Kong.

The London-based bank said trips are only permitted “if absolutely essential to meet commitments to our clients or regulators, even between countries with no recorded cases,” according to an earlier memo seen by Bloomberg that was confirmed by a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman.

The bank last month said that potential credit losses should the virus outbreak persist could climb to US$600 million.

The China infection was earlier reported by Reuters.