London - HSBC Holdings, Europe’s largest bank, said first-half earnings fell 12 percent, missing analyst estimates, as investment banking profit declined.

Pretax profit dropped to $12.3 billion (R131 billion) from $14.1 billion in the year-earlier period, the London-based lender said in a statement today.

That’s the first decline for the period since 2009 and compares with the $12.9 billion average estimate of four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Investment banking unit profit dropped 12 percent to $5.03 billion.

Chief executive Stuart Gulliver has exited at least 68 businesses since taking over in 2011, eroding revenue, as the bank invests in its most profitable markets amid increased regulation and compliance costs.

HSBC, which gets the bulk of its profit from Asia, is striving to keep bad loans under control and cut as much as $3 billion of expenses as earnings from investment banking falls.

“Whilst regulatory uncertainty persists, our balance sheet remains strong and our continuing ability to generate capital supports both growth and our progressive dividend policy,” Gulliver, 55, said in the statement.

The shares fell 0.9 percent to 623.8 pence at 9:20 am in London trading. - Bloomberg News