HSBC said yesterday it would continue to invest in Malta and expand its range of services and products.

In a company statement on the Malta Stock Exchange, the bank sought to allay fears, raised by weekend press reports, that it was planning to close shop on the island, even though it did not say so specifically.

“Malta is one of our best performing markets and we continue to invest in our Maltese franchise, expanding our range of services and products for our customers,” HSBC group chief executive officer Stuart Gulliver said.

HSBC Malta CEO Mark Watkinson said: “There are exciting opportunities to develop our business as part of the government’s strategy of expanding the financial services sector in Malta. HSBC’s international footprint provides the bank with a unique competitive advantage in this growth sector.”

“Over the last year, HSBC Malta has continued its programme of renovating its branch network, rolling out new ATMs and automated banking facilities and IT and systems upgrades to the tune of €21 million,” he added.

The General Workers’ Union’s weekly, It-Torċa, on Sunday reported that, giving an international presentation about the bank’s markets, Mr Gulliver said that the small market in Malta “makes it difficult to explain why on earth are we there... we will sort this in the next year or something similar”.

The bank did not refer directly to these comments in its statement.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Malta Union of Bank Employees said there were no indications that the bank was about to leave.

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