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Standard Chartered net profit flat in 2012

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Standard Chartered on Tuesday said its net profit was flat in 2012, even after the British lender was hit by a huge fine for violating US sanctions on Iran and three other countries.

Net profit came in at US$4.79 billion, compared to $4.75 billion in 2011, the London-based, Asia-focused lender said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange. Pre-tax profit rose one percent to $6.9 billion.

While income rose eight percent to $19.07 billion, profit was hit by the $667-million fine it was forced to pay US authorities last year to settle charges it violated US sanctions, the bank said.

"The $667 million settlements dented our profit growth and damaged our reputation," group chief executive Peter Sands said in a statement.

US authorities said last year the bank had stripped messages on financial transfers routed through US banks of information that would show the beneficiaries were businesses and entities that fell under US sanctions.

Sands said the slower economic growth in most of its markets, such as India and China, was another factor that dragged down its performance.

"The macroeconomic environment -- normally a tailwind for us, given the markets we are in -- also proved quite challenging in 2012," he said.

Business slowed in India with revenue falling 12 percent last year, Sands noted, although he sounded optimistic saying that the "mood in India has changed noticeably since last summer" and investor activity "undoubtedly picked up".

"Given the headwinds we faced in 2012, it is no surprise that both income and profit growth for the group as a whole were somewhat slower," Sands said.

Standard Chartered has a strong footprint across emerging markets, part of the reason that it has outshone many of its counterparts with its limited exposure to the ongoing eurozone debacle.

The bank, which survived the global financial crisis without state assistance, makes around 90 percent of its profits in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The bank however was hit by the fine last year, as US authorities are pushing harder on the banking sector to fall in line with its sanctions, especially on Iran as it seeks to pressure Tehran to give up its controversial nuclear programme.

Sands said he was positive on the bank's outlook for this year, after seeing good momentum in its consumer and wholesale banking sectors so far this year.

"Looking at January and our momentum through February, the group has started 2013 well," the chief executive said.

Standard Chartered reported a 12-percent rise in its 2011 net profit to a record $4.75 billion, thanks to strong performance in developing economies.

On Monday, another Asia-focused giant HSBC -- which was hit by a $1.9 billion fine to settle US allegations of money laundering -- said its 2012 net profit sank 16.5 percent to $14.03 billion in 2012.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130305/standard-chartered-net-profit-flat-2012