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Standard Chartered Beats Forecasts, Positive on 2008

Shares in Standard Chartered rose more than 6 percent on London's FTSE-100 index Tuesday, after the bank said it has seen an excellent start of the year and its 2007 results beat forecasts.

Britain's sixth largest bank said a strong performance in its Hong Kong and Indian markets helped boost profit in 2007 by 27 percent.

"2007 was a great year for the bank," Mervyn Davies, chairman of Standard Chartered, told CNBC Europe.

"We had a strong start to 2008, so we are optimistic for the future," Davies added. "We've had exceptional growth in markets like Hong Kong and China. So it's really about right place, right time."

Chief Executive Peter Sands said he was confident the bank will deliver another strong performance this year after its wholesale banking division had a record January.

Standard Chartered, which makes three-quarters of its profits in Asia, said on Tuesday it made a pretax profit of $4.04 billion last year, above the average forecast of $3.92 billion in a Reuters Estimates poll of analysts.

It said 2008 had started "amid almost unprecedented market volatility," but that it had made an excellent start, particularly in wholesale banking.

Standard Chartered shares had the biggest rise on the FTSE-100 index. The stock has beaten the DJStoxx European banks index by 37 percent over the past year due to the bank's relatively light exposure to slowing U.S. and European economies.

Standard Chartered took a $300 million writedown on its Whistlejacket structured investment vehicle and its asset securitization portfolio due to financial turmoil.

It had previously flagged a $116 million hit for Whistlejacket, which has been forced into receivership.

"We're disappointed that we aren't able to resolve it (Whistlejacket)," Davies said.

However, it said it had a lower exposure to risky assets than many other banks, with no direct exposure and a very limited indirect exposure to U.S. subprime assets.

Its entire exposure to asset-backed securities (ABS), including collateralized debt obligations (CDO), was under $6 billion, it said in a statement.

Standard Chartered said Asian economies would be affected by an economic slowdown elsewhere, but said they were better placed to cope than during the last U.S. recession, when big exporting economies like Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia were hit hard.

"The region now enjoys a degree of insulation and resilience due to stronger domestic demand, economic resurgence in China, growing trade links within Asia and strong policy response from government and central banks," it said.