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Standard Chartered CEO Expects Turbulence to Continue

The head of British-based bank Standard Chartered said on Friday he saw current global market turbulence continuing for several more months.

"The financial markets' problems are starting to affect the real economy," Peter Sands, CEO of the London-based bank, told a news conference, adding that "many problems" still needed to be resolved in that regard.

But Sands said Standard Chartered would keep looking at further opportunities to for acquisitions.

"We will keep investing to continue rapid growth," he said.

Standard Chartered beat forecasts with a 27 percent rise in 2007 profits last week. The bank took a $300 million writedown on its exposure to risky assets for 2007, a modest total compared to losses at other major banks.

The writedown included a $116 million hit on its Whistlejacket structured investment vehicle.

"We now have minimal financial exposure to Whistlejacket," Sands said on Friday.

Sands also said the company did not plan to re-list Seoul-based SC First Bank, which it acquired in 2005 for $3.3 billion.

South Korea, where Standard Chartered made its biggest ever acquisition in 2005, remained a problem area in 2007, with profits tumbling 29 percent.

The South Korean results were the one blemish in an otherwise stellar year.

Profits from Hong Kong jumped by one-third in 2007 while profits in China rose 72 percent and Indian profits 71 percent.

Sands reiterated his confidence in the Korean unit.

"I see SC First Bank as being a really sustained source of strong profit growth for the group," he said.

Standard Chartered in January bought a mutual savings bank from South Korea's government restructuring agency for a reported sum of about $160 million.

Standard Chartered is also reported to have bid for Hannuri Investment and Securities and LIG Life Insurance last year. Both were snapped up by rivals.

Sands reiterated his group's interest in forming a holding company in South Korea as part of efforts to strengthen brokerage and insurance businesses.

A holding company format would help sell financial products and transfer staff under the group, and be in line with government wishes, the company has said in the past.