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Standard Chartered profit slumps on China real estate and banking losses

Pedestrians walk past the British multinational banking and financial services company Standard Chartered branch in Hong Kong. Standard Chartered on Friday reported first-half pre-tax profit rose 19%, above market expectations, as the emerging markets-focused lender benefited from rising interest rates.

Budrul Chukrut | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Standard Chartered on Thursday said pre-tax profit dropped 33% in the third quarter of the year, far beyond analyst estimates, after taking a nearly $1 billion hit from exposure to China’s banking and troubled real estate sectors.

The U.K.-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 16 analyst estimates compiled by the bank.

Its Hong Kong-listed shares 2888.HK plunged 5.5% to HK$63.70, their biggest one-day percentage drop since March 27.

Credit impairment charges rose $62 million from a year prior to $294 million after taking a $186 million charge related to Chinese commercial real estate.

StanChart also took a $700 million hit from its stake in China Bohai Bank, which it said reflected subdued earnings at the lender and challenging economic backdrop.

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

Its Chinese real estate exposure totaled $2.7 billion, down $200 million from the previous quarter.

A raft of government easing measures have done little to allay China’s economic fragility as crisis in its property market deepens with high-profile debt-repayment defaults and the absence of state support in the sector.

Domestic banking peers have reported squeezed margins while foreign banks, with smaller exposure, have started to take heftier blows as sentiment worsens and the government guides lenders to lower mortgage rates.

StanChart said the hit on its investment in China Bohai, a lender in the eastern coastal city Tianjin, was due to lower forecast interest rates and decreased lending margins reported in the Chinese bank’s half-year results.

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

‘Solid performance’ in other business

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.

“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%.

Retail products saw 17% income growth, supported by a 50% rise in deposit product income.

In the financial markets trading division, income fell 8% as reduced market volatility curbed client appetite for trading in products related to interest rates, commodities and foreign exchange.

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