Standard Chartered, one of the most successful growth stories in global banking for a decade, has called a halt to its grand expansion as it seeks to conserve capital amid the worst drop in profits for more than 12 years.
After a period in which it aggressively took business from crisis-hit western rivals, StanChart is now pulling back in its heartland of Asia and losing deals to regional rivals, senior figures at the bank have told the Financial Times.
In a sign of the pace of change, StanChart has fallen from eighth place last year in the league tables for project finance in Asia, excluding Japan, to 21st, according to Dealogic. It has also dropped from 16th to 23rd in Asian trade finance, while market share in leveraged finance has tumbled from 5.8 per cent to less than 4 per cent. Together, the three areas are estimated to account for about 15 per cent of group revenues.
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Yet some of the bank's biggest investors are becoming restless about its performance, and 41 per cent voted against its pay policy at the annual meeting. "A protest vote on pay is often a symptom of bigger issues on a board or at a company," said one top-20 shareholder.
The bank, hit by a slowdown in emerging market economies and rising competition from Asian rivals,warned this month that operating profit would fall by a fifth when it reports interim results in two weeks.
Its shares have fallen by a third since peaking above £18 in March 2013 and are down more than a fifth against the FTSE All-share banks index, prompting takeover talk.