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British bank posts sterling earnings

STANDARD Chartered PLC reported yesterday that profit rose 17 percent in 2008, driven by growth in wholesale banking despite the global economic turmoil.

For the year ended December 31, Standard Chartered reported a profit of US$3.3 billion, up from US$2.8 billion in 2007. Operating income rose 26 percent to US$13.97 billion and total assets rose 32 percent to US$435 billion.

The British bank's results were an upbeat ending to a series of depressed results from the financial sector, including Royal Bank of Scotland's record British corporate loss of 24.1 billion pounds (US$33.9 billion) last week and HSBC's announcement on Monday that it would ask shareholders for 12.5 billion pounds after seeing its profits slump 70 percent.

"These results appear the best we have seen this results season. However, trends into 2009, especially in consumer banking and corporate asset quality, are weakening," said Alex Potter, an analyst at Collins Stewart.

Potter pointed to impairment charges of US$1.8 billion in 2008, more than doubling last year's US$818 million. The bank said that the rate of impairment charges accelerated in the last months of the year.

Standard Chartered said that it was surprised by the speed and extent of the economic downturn in Asia as export markets shrank.


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