Standard Chartered shares down on probe confirmation

7th August 2014, Comments 0 comments

Shares in Standard Chartered fell on Thursday morning trade in Hong Kong after it confirmed it faces fresh US fines over alleged breaches in its anti-money laundering systems and "disappointing" first half results.

Shares of the London-based but Asia focused bank stood at HK$159.6 ($20.59) in morning trade at the Hong Kong stock exchange, falling 0.5 percent from Wednesday's closing price. The benchmark Hang Seng Index also fell 0.4 percent.

Media reports said the new probe by New York's financial regulator followed allegations that it failed to spot millions of risky transactions flowing through its US operations.

The investigation comes two years after the bank paid massive penalties for violating American sanctions, principally on Iran but also on Myanmar, Libya and Sudan.

Standard Chartered's fall in share price was in line with the overall performance of the Hang Seng Index, Tanrich Securities Vice President Jackson Wong told AFP.

He added that investors are not too worried about the probe.

"I don't think investors had a huge scare because it is still at an early stage, and we can't put a number on (the penalty)," Wong said.

Investors are also expecting a smaller settlement amount compared to previous penalties in 2012, he said.

Standard Chartered said it was bracing to pay fines following the new investigation. The New York Times reported that regulators were seeking a "nine-figure penalty".

It said a "monetary penalty and remedial actions" would likely follow the investigation.

The bank also said on Wednesday its profit before tax for the first half of the year was down 20 percent at $3.27 billion from $4.09 billion in the same period last year in results which its chief executive called "clearly disappointing".

Net profit stood at $2.31 billion for the first half, up 8.4 percent, while operating income fell almost five percent to $9.27 billion.

"Investors do not have high hopes, but they are not scared by the results," Wong said, adding that the bank had previously warned of weak performance for the first half.

In December 2012, Standard Chartered agreed to pay US authorities $327 million to settle charges it violated American sanctions, principally on Iran but also on Myanmar, Libya and Sudan.

Four months earlier New York state's banking watchdog had fined the bank $340 million in the same investigation, saying it hid 60,000 transactions with proscribed Iranian clients worth $250 billion over 10 years.

US authorities said the bank had stripped messages on financial transfers routed through US banks of information that would show the beneficiaries were businesses and entities that fell under American sanctions.

© 2014 AFP

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