Standard Chartered halves dividend, new CEO says could raise capital

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Standard Chartered halved its dividend and said it would raise capital from investors if needed, as new chief Executive Bill Winters outlined his thoughts on reviving a bank hit by a 44 percent slump in first-half profit.

Shares in the Asia-focused lender rose 4.5 percent to 994.9 pence on Wednesday as investors welcomed Winters' move to set a target to double return on equity to a minimum of 10 percent.

That helped offset disappointment over the cut to the dividend for the first half of the year to 14.4 cents a share from 28.8 cents a year ago. The bank said it had "rebased" the payout to reflect its "current earnings expectation and outlook".

As a result of the cut, StanChart said its common tier 1 equity position, a key measure of capital strength, had risen 80 basis points to 11.5 percent, six months ahead of target.

Winters, who became CEO in June, did not rule out raising capital in future. "If we decide we need capital for the long-term benefit of the group, we will raise capital," he said.

Billy H.C. Kwok | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The bank said its pretax profit in the first six months of the year fell to $1.82 billion, down 44 percent from a year ago.

StanChart has suffered a troubled three years, hurt by problems including fines from U.S. regulators for misconduct, strained relations with top shareholders, plunging commodities prices and a weakened trading environment.

On his first day in charge, Winters told investors the bank needed to strengthen its finances and simplify operations to increase shareholder returns.

The lender has struggled to shake off concerns it will need to raise additional capital to bolster its balance sheet, especially if Asian economies that have traditionally served as the biggest drivers for its revenue growth continue to falter.

The lender is aiming for cost savings of $1.8 billion by the end of 2018.

Some analysts have said Winters needs to raise at least $5 billion from a rights issue and a dividend cut to strengthen the balance sheet and generate cash to grow lending and kick-start revenue growth.

Winters has already shaken up the bank's management structure, streamlining its eight geographical regions into four units that will report directly to him.