Standard Chartered brushes off Hong Kong woes to post profits hike

Standard Chartered has shrugged off protests in Hong Kong and a slowdown in the global economy to post a hike in third-quarter profits.

The Asia and emerging markets-focused bank reported a 16% jump in underlying pre-tax profits to 1.2 billion US dollars (£932 million) for the three months to September.

On a statutory basis, pre-tax profits lifted 4% to 1.1 billion US dollars (£854 million).

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Bill Winters is chief executive of Standard Chartered (Standard Chartered/PA)

Chief executive Bill Winters said the figures showed the bank was “stronger and more resilient”.

But he noted the bank was facing “more challenging” conditions.

Standard Chartered warned there are “growing headwinds from the combination of continuing geopolitical tensions and expectations of declining near-term global growth and interest rates”.

Shares in Standard Chartered were 3% higher after the results, with the profit performance coming in better than expected.

The group is in the throes of a second three-year turnaround plan under Mr Winters.

He took over in 2015 and has battled to boost a flagging share price since then amid scandals and the toll taken from years of over-aggressive growth.

But the programme of swingeing overhauls is bearing fruit, with the figures showing a higher-than-forecast 7% rise in operating income to 3.98 billion (£3.1 billion).

The group delivered growth in Asia – where it makes around two-thirds of its total operating income – in spite of the unrest in Hong Kong and the US-China trade war.

It said income grew in Hong Kong and China, though it gave no details.

Standard Chartered is heavily exposed to Hong Kong – its largest market – which has been rocked by increasingly violent pro-democracy protests in recent months.

It employs around 6,000 staff in Hong Kong and has had a presence there for 160 years.

The bank did not comment on the situation in Hong Kong in its third quarter results, but said in August that it opposes violence and “firmly supports” the Hong Kong government in effectively maintaining social order.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said Standard Chartered has “beaten expectations amid a challenging environment and managed to keep costs flat while simultaneously growing revenues”.

Banking expert Gary Greenwood, of Shore Capital, said: “We are pleasantly surprised by the strength of Standard Chartered’s performance.”

“To outperform expectations on revenue in a difficult operating environment is no mean feat,” he added.

In April, Standard Chartered unveiled plans for a one billion US dollar (£776 million) share buyback in the first such move for at least 20 years.

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