Standard Chartered almost doubles first-quarter profit as bad loan losses improve
Decline in bad loan provision a major factor, but improvement in Hong Kong retail and private banking plays a part
Standard Chartered shares in London jumped sharply on Wednesday after the bank announced that its profits had almost doubled in the first quarter of the year, thanks to narrower losses on bad loans.
Standard Chartered reported pre-tax profit of US$1 billion for the first three months, up 94 per cent from US$589 million in the same period a year earlier, as it continues to recover from its catastrophic 2015.
The result pushed the bank’s shares in London up by as much as 5 per cent, before falling back slightly.
“We made a loss in 2015, last year was an improvement, and this was another step,” said Standard Chartered Group chief financial officer Andy Halford on a call with the media.
Hong Kong played its part in the recovery with improvements in retail and private banking in the city contributing to the group’s overall performance.
“There was more new money in the market, and we got more than our share of it,” said Halford .
The most significant reason for the bank’s rise in profits, however, was a substantial decline in the charges it set aside for bad loans in the first quarter. These were just US$198 million, US$492 million lower than the last three months of 2016.
“Loan impairments tend to do better in the first quarter, but these were unusually good,” said Halford , who cautioned against expecting similarly low figures to be maintained for the rest of the year.
Standard Chartered did not pay a dividend in 2016, and Halford did not give any firm undertakings on the subject during the call. However, with the bank’s core capital ratio rising to 13.8 per cent, above its target range of between 12 and 13 per cent, analysts were optimistic that it would resume paying it.
“The strong capital position, we feel, sets Standard Chartered up for resumption in dividend this year,” said Sanford C. Bernstein analysts in a note.