StanChart resumes dividend payout as 2017 profit soars
Banks have been struggling to lift earnings from loans as interest rates hover at historic lows
HONG KONG: Standard Chartered Plc resumed its dividend payout after unveiling a six-fold jump in annual pretax profit, indicating the bank was making progress in its return to revenue growth following a painful two-year restructuring.
Pretax profit at the emerging markets-focused lender jumped to $2.41 billion in its latest financial year, up from $409 million in 2016, but below the $2.7 billion average of 10 analysts’ estimates, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Operating income, closely watched by investors who want StanChart to deliver profit from core business growth rather than lower provisions for bad loans, was up nearly 3 percent to $14.43 billion, according to the bank’s statement on Tuesday.
The bank said its board recommended resuming a dividend on the back of the improving financial performance and strong capital. It proposed a full year dividend of 11 US cents per ordinary share.
StanChart’s Hong Kong shares rose more than 2 percent in afternoon trading following the results and the dividend announcement, erasing their losses earlier in the day.
After coming through the financial crisis relatively unscathed, StanChart ran into trouble when global commodity prices crashed and bad debts started to rise on its books following over-exuberant lending.
Investors have been hoping that it can return to revenue growth after the restructuring under chief executive Bill Winters who has cut more than 15,000 jobs and axed business lines such as Asian equities.
The bank, which makes the bulk of its revenue in Asia, skipped paying dividends for 2016 and for the latter half of 2015, citing an ongoing restructuring and regulatory uncertainty.
“The Board understands the importance of the ordinary dividend to shareholders and intends to increase the full year dividend per share over time,” StanChart’s Chairman Jose Vinals said in the bank’s earnings statement on Tuesday.
He said the higher dividend in future would depend on the bank’s earnings outlook, group and local regulatory capital requirements and opportunities to invest to grow the business.
StanChart’s core capital ratio, another closely watched measure of lenders’ financial strength, remained unchanged at 13.6 percent last year compared to 2016, but above the lender’s targeted range of 12 percent to 13 percent.
StanChart is looking to drive returns by boosting lending to key industrial sectors and top clients, in a move that could cut about a dozen investment banking jobs as it dials back in areas such as private equity, sources told Reuters earlier this month.
Some of those jobs will likely be redeployed in other parts of the main corporate banking unit that it is trying to strengthen, given its aim to increase lending to top companies in its main markets of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The main branch of Standard Chartered in Hong Kong. StanChart’s Hong Kong shares rose more than 2 percent in afternoon trading following the results and the dividend announcement. (Reuters)