StanChart shares thumped, despite bumper rise in pre-tax profits


Standard Chartered shares dropped 6 per cent in London in early trading on Wednesday, despite the bank reporting a 78 per cent jump in underlying pre-tax profits for the third quarter.

Hong Kong’s third currency-issuing bank earned pre-tax underlying profits of US$814 million, beating the US$809 million average estimates of badysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

The increase was primarily down to a sharp fall in the amount of cash Standard Chartered set aside to cover impaired loans.

The bank’s income for the quarter was 4 per cent higher than the same period, but expenses rose by a similar amount. Analysts were generally unimpressed by the figures.

Anil Agarwal, head of financial research for Asia ex Japan at Morgan Stanley, who has an underweight rating on the stock, described the performance in a research note as “fairly weak all round”.

The bank’s “third quarter profit and loss trends were OK, but likely not good enough for bulls”, wrote Joseph Dickerson and Kapilan Pillai, banking badysts at Jefferies, who have an underperform rating on the stock.

The UK-based lender, which earns much of its profit from Asia, is only now emerging from a period of restructuring following a disastrous 2015, when it fell US$1.5 billion into the red.

Andy Halford, its chief financial officer, insisted “we are continuing to make steady progress”, in a call to journalists.

Halford added there had been income growth across the bank’s major markets, that its Greater China and North Asia division had performed slightly better, whereas its Asean and South Asia division had performed less well, due to tighter margins.

Standard Chartered has not issued a dividend since 2015, and shareholders were again left disappointed with Halford giving no indication of any resumption, when it announces its annual results in February next year.

“Its capital [levels] missed by 20 basis points, given regulatory inflation and this is likely to dash any hopes of any capital distribution this year” wrote Dickerson and Pillai.

Standard Chartered’s common equity tier-one capital ratio – an key measure of its capital position – dropped 15 basis points between the end of June and the end of September due to changes in the way the UK’s Prudential Regulation Authority viewed its exposure to financial institutions.

Standard Chartered is the last of Hong Kong’s major lenders to report third-quarter earnings.

HSBC announced Q3 profits of US$5.44 billion, 1.4 per cent lower than the same period last year.

Bank of China Hong Kong, the other currency issuing bank in Hong Kong, posted earnings of HK$8.81 billion (US$1.13 billion) for the third quarter, up 18.8 per cent year on year.

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