Bank halts Far East listing

STANDARD CHARTERED, the UK-based international bank, has shelved plans for share listings in the Far East in the wake of two scandals involving its operations there.

Earlier this year the bank told analysts that it was seeking a listing on the Hong Kong and Singapore stock exchanges. The move was intended to set the seal on its new strategy focusing on the fast-growing Asia Pacific markets, where it has been active for more than a century.

But the plans have been put on hold after its Hong Kong subsidiary was censured by the Securities and Futures Commission, the colony's watchdog, for illegal share-support schemes in the new issues market.

The affair led to the resignation of Raymond Theodolou as chief executive of Standard Chartered Securities in Hong Kong. The subsidiary was banned until next spring from taking part in new issues there.

Last week the bank was rocked by allegations that executives from its gold bullion arm, Mocatta, had offered bribes in Malaysia and the Philippines. The allegations of bribes, said to have been offered in exchange for business, have led to two further resignations.

The scandals have reinforced Standard's accident- prone image, forcing it to delay the listings until next year, City sources suggest.

However, a spokesman for the bank denied that the plans had been delayed because of the adverse publicity. 'Uncertain market conditions in the Far East are the main reason why we have not yet opted for the listings,' he said.

'The ban on some of our activities in Hong Kong does not have a bearing on our plans. The matter has been cleared up and it is no longer an issue.'

The latest disclosures have led to volatile trading in the bank's shares, which closed the week 15p lower at 255p.

About a month ago, the bank carried out a sweeping reorganisation aimed at tightening up its management controls in the Far East.