Standard Chartered first quarter pretax profit climbs 20%, beats forecasts

Key Points
  • Q1 pretax profit at $1.26 billion versus $1.21 billion estimates
  • Operating income rises 7 pct to $3.9 billion
  • Hong Kong shares of StanChart up 0.8%
A pedestrian walks past a branch of Standard Chartered bank in Hong Kong on February 23, 2016.
Philippe Lopez | AFP | Getty Images

Standard Chartered posted a better-than-expected 20 percent rise in pretax profit for the first three months of the year, helped by a surge in loan demand and improvement in asset quality.

The first-quarter profit jump on Wednesday builds on early signs of success, including a return to dividend payments, for StanChart, which, under the leadership of Chief Executive Bill Winters since 2015, has undergone a sweeping restructuring.

Pretax profit for the bank, which focuses on Asia, Africa and the Middle East, rose to $1.26 billion in the quarter ended March 31 from $1.05 billion in the same period a year ago, it said in a statement to the stock exchange.

That was above an average estimate of $1.21 billion drawn from nine analysts in a poll collated by the bank.

The bank's operating income in the quarter rose 7 percent to $3.9 billion. Net impairment on financial assets in the quarter was at a similar level to the same period last year and 29 percent lower than in the fourth quarter, the bank said.

StanChart in February unveiled a new medium-term goal of an 8 percent return on equity, as it recovers from a restructuring that saw the key profitability metric fall into the negative. It has not announced the timetable for achieving the goal.

It posted an annualized return on equity of 7.6 percent in the March quarter, compared to 6.3 percent in the first quarter of 2017.

"This encouraging start to the year shows that we are firmly on the path laid out in February that will take us above an 8 percent return on equity in the medium term," Winters said in the statement.

Losses from bad debts had plagued StanChart in the recent past, but the bank has since tightened limits on who can make decisions about such big loans and decreased internal limits for exposure to a single client.

Hong Kong shares of StanChart were trading up 0.8 percent after the results, while the broader Hong Kong market was down 0.6 percent.