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Standard Chartered Reveals $1bn China Property, Banking Hit

The UK-based bank, which earns most of its revenue in Asia, lost $700m alone from its stake in China Bohai Bank

Standard Chartered says it has become the first foreign bank to sell bond futures in China.
The Standard Chartered bank logo is seen at its main branch in Hong Kong in this Reuters file photo from August 2017.


Standard Chartered shares took a battering on Thursday after the bank saw its profit dive by a third as a result of a $1 billion hit from China’s real estate and banking sectors.

The UK-based bank’s stock fell 12% before trading was briefly halted following news that its pre-tax profit dropped 33% in the third quarter, far worse than analyst estimates.

StanChart pointed the finger of blame at a $700 million knock from its stake in China Bohai Bank, and a $186 million charge from Chinese commercial real estate.


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The UK-headquartered bank, which earns most of its revenue in Asia, booked July-September statutory pretax profit of $633 million. That compared with $996 million a year earlier and the $1.41 billion average of analyst estimates.

The hefty loss in China, where StanChart has based much of its expansion effort, underlines the challenge it faces to improve returns via exposure to the world’s second-largest economy at a time of slowing growth and widening losses on loans.

StanChart said the hit on its 16% stake in China Bohai, a lender in the eastern coastal city of Tianjin in which it invested more than a decade ago, was due to lower forecast interest rates and decreased lending margins.

Bohai booked a 17.8% fall in January-June net interest income, leading to a nearly 7% decline in its overall profit, according to company filings.

“We took a couple of impairment charges a year and a bit ago, and we have taken the extra impairment charge as you can see today,” Chief Financial Officer Andy Halford told reporters.

“That is reflective of the fact that particularly its own net interest margin has been weaker,” he said.


HSBC Stock Dips

A raft of government easing measures has done little to allay China’s economic fragility as a crisis in its property market deepens with high-profile debt-repayment defaults.

StanChart’s Chinese real estate exposure totalled $2.7 billion as of the end of September, down $200 million from the previous quarter.

Shares in rival HSBC, which similarly has exposure to Chinese real estate and to the bank sector via its stake in Bank of Communications, were down only 2% on Thursday as investors saw limited read-across between the two.

StanChart, which has been the subject of repeated takeover speculation in the last decade, saw renewed interest earlier this year after First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) in January said it had considered but abandoned a bid.

StanChart has recently had “no contact” with FAB, Chief Financial Officer Andy Halford told reporters on a conference call on Thursday.

StanChart said it is confident of hitting its return-on-tangible-equity targets of 10% this year and 11% in 2024, but downgraded some other performance forecasts for the year.


Business Performance Optimism

“Investors were expecting a clean set of third quarter numbers, and we do not have that today,” said Jefferies analyst Joe Dickerson.

The “silver lining” for investors was the bank’s underlying business performance, excluding impairment charges, remained solid, Dickerson said in a note to clients.

Net interest margin, a measure of return on lending, will now “approach” 1.7 percentage points rather than be “around” that level, StanChart said.

Rate-sensitive businesses received a boost, with income from transaction banking, the bulk in cash management services, increasing 42% and retail products reporting 17% growth.

In the financial markets trading division, income fell 8% as reduced market volatility curbed client appetite for trading.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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