Standard Chartered profits up, on track for 10th record year


Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered said its operating profit grew by a mid-single digit rate in the first nine months of the year, putting it on track for a 10th straight year of record earnings.

Earnings would have risen by at least 10 percent if not for a $340 million settlement paid to New York regulators who threatened to strip the bank of its state licence over allegations it hid some $250 billion worth of transactions with Iran.

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"Although the environment remains turbulent, we are in the right markets and continue to see good momentum across our businesses and geographies," CEO Peter Sands wrote in a third-quarter trading update on Tuesday.

The bank's forecast is roughly in line with full-year expectations for a 6 percent rise in pretax profit to about $7.2 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. It does not release specific numbers in its quarterly updates.

Hong Kong, China, Indonesia and Europe delivered a strong performance, the bank said, without elaborating. That offset weakness in India, Singapore's wholesale banking, and South Korea's consumer banking.

Rising household debt in South Korea - which now exceeds that of the United States before the subprime mortgage crisis - has prompted worries the country may soon see a spike in bad loans. In Singapore, the city-state narrowly escaped a recession in the third quarter.

Despite the slowdown, Standard Chartered said it reduced how much it put aside in case of bad loans - its impairment charge - by tens of millions of dollars. In the first half of the year, the bank set aside $583 million for impairment charges.

Standard Chartered said portfolio quality in its wholesale bank - which includes its investment bank and commercial bank - was good, though it was watchful in India and the Middle East.

Questions about Standard Chartered's asset quality arose after the bank made a $1 billion loan to the Indonesian chairman of London-listed Bumi Plc , triggering some concern over the bank's lending practices.

Costs remained under control, with revenue growth roughly in line with the increase in costs - a trend known as "neutral jaws". Standard Chartered was bogged down by rising costs in much of 2010 and 2011 as it expanded across Asia.

Standard Chartered shares in Hong Kong have risen about 9 percent this year, lagging the benchmark Hang Seng Index's 20 percent gain. The stock reversed earlier losses after the trading update on Tuesday, trading flat at around HK$186.50.

(Reporting by Kelvin Soh; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)