Standard Chartered bank says first-half profits advance

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British bank Standard Chartered said Wednesday that net profits rose 9.5 percent in the first half of 2010, as bad debts more than halved at the emerging markets group.

Profits after tax climbed to 2.181 billion dollars (1.649 billion euros) in the six months to the end of June, which compared with 1.991 billion dollars in the same part of 2009, the lender said in a results statement.

Loan impairment losses plunged 60 percent to 437 million dollars in the first half, compared with 1.09 billion dollars last time around.

"The challenging credit environment seen in early 2009 has continued to ease, resulting in lower delinquency trends since the second half of 2009 and consequent lower provisions," the group said.

The lender, which derives more than 90 percent of its income from emerging markets, added that pre-tax profits increased to 3.12 billion dollars, up from 2.84 billion, in line with market expectations.

"We continued our strong performance in the first half of 2010 and both of our businesses have had an encouraging start to the second half," said chairman John Peace in comments accompanying the release.

"Despite the regulatory and economic uncertainties, our focus on the basics of banking will continue to hold us in good stead. Standard Chartered remains in excellent shape."

The group also sounded a cautious note about the outlook for the world economy.

"These remain challenging times. There is fragility in the global economy and nervousness in financial markets," added Peace.

"While there is economic improvement in our markets of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, they are still dependent on a recovery in the West which is much less certain.

"As a bank which spans East and West, we can see how much more positive the mood is across our markets."

Standard Chartered added Wednesday that its total operating income dipped slightly to 7.92 billion dollars in the reporting period, compared with 7.96 billion last year.

However, its share price slid 4.49 percent to 1,817 pence in morning deals on the London FTSE 100 index of leading companies, which was down 0.96 percent at 5,344.52 points.

Oriel Securities analyst Mike Trippitt described the bank's overall performance as "good" -- but added that its consumer banking division had disappointed investors.

Wednesday's results come just two days after Asia-focused global banking giant HSBC revealed that its first-half net profits more than doubled to 6.76 billion dollars on the back of plunging bad debts.

Standard Chartered, like HSBC, survived the global financial crisis without state assistance and has a strong footprint across emerging markets.

© 2010 AFP

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