Malta has the opportunity to become a major trade hub, according to Mark Watkinson, HSBC Bank Malta chief executive officer.

Speaking during the bank's annual general meeting today he said that with the third largest port in the Mediterranean and an unrivalled geographic position that allows it to act as a bridge between the EU and North Africa, the potential was very positive.

“In support of this vision, during the year under review, HSBC launched the €50 million Malta Trade for Growth Fund, designed to meet the aspirations of Maltese companies to find new export markets and to look for more competitive overseas suppliers,” said Mr Watkinson.

He described 2013 as a year of considerable challenges, during which HSBC Bank Malta delivered resilient results that compared favourably with the sector.

Principal headwinds faced included the continued uncertainty in the Eurozone, significant regulatory changes and subdued local economic growth. Despite this backdrop, HSBC Malta delivered a profit before taxation of €90m for the year ended December 31.

The AGM confirmed the directors appointed by the majority shareholder HSBC Europe BV: Sonny Portelli (chairman), Mark Watkinson (CEO), Ranjit Gokarn, Brian Robertson, Philip Farrugia Randon and Andrew Muscat. John Bonello, James Dunbar Cousin and Caroline Zammit Testaferrata Moroni Viani were elected non-executive directors.

A final ordinary gross dividend of 5.2 cent per share was announced, to be paid on April 25.

The meeting approved a board recommendation for a bonus share issue of one new share for every nine shares presently held by registered shareholders as at close of trading on the Malta Stock Exchange on April 29. The bonus shares will be available for trading by the shareholders at the opening of business on April 30.

In respect of this, the shareholders approved an increase of the bank’s issued share capital of 32,431,380 fully paid ordinary shares at a 30c per share nominal value against the debit of an equivalent amount of €9,729,414 to the bank’s retained earnings account.

All the ordinary resolutions presented during the meeting were approved by the shareholders in accordance with the company’s memorandum and articles of association. The audited accounts for the year ended December 31 were approved.

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