Record Profits Standard at Standard Chartered


LONDON --Standard Chartered (ISE: STAN.L) is in the Olympic swing as it posted its tenth consecutive year with record-setting first-half profits, which were up 12% to $2.8 billion on the back of continued growth in wholesale banking (that's financing trade and helping companies manage their cash flow, as opposed to the banking you or I would do) in the bank's core Asian markets.

The strength in wholesale banking more than made up for a weaker performance from the bank's consumer banking division, which suffered from lower margins on mortgages and higher operating expenses as Standard Chartered builds out its network of branches and staff in the region.

Standard Chartered has one of the healthiest balance sheets of the U.K.-listed banks and, unlike HSBC and Barclays, it isn't trying to recover from serious reputational damage, which may be why it is the highest-rated with a price-to-tangible-book ratio of 1.6 compared to 1.1 for HSBC and 0.4 for Barclays. Standard Chartered's focus on the emerging markets of Asia and Africa and relatively low exposure to the mess in Europe also provide some comfort for investors.

Even after the 10% increase in the interim dividend, Standard Chartered's 3.2% dividend yield isn't overly impressive, but the bank's proven track record and emerging-market exposure could still provide solid returns for investors in the coming years. Even after the shares' run-up from around 13 pounds in May and June investors looking for some exposure to financials could do worse than consider Standard Chartered.

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