However, the bank still made $7.1 billion last year thanks to a 56 per cent increase in underlying profits, which reached $13.3 billion.
Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC, said that the company had built up its financial strength in 2009, with the bank's capital base now standing at $10.2 billion.
"Throughout the crisis, our strategy has remained clear - to build on our position as the leading international and emerging markets bank," he added.
Michael Geoghegan, chief executive of HSBC, confirmed widespread media reports that he is to give his annual bonus to charity.
He said that between now and 2013 he will share out the Â£4 million ($5.9 million) he received between various good causes in the UK and Hong Kong.
Mr Geoghegan follows the recent example set by the chief executives of Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays in not accepting any bonus for their work in 2009.
By Claire Archer