Standard doubles provisions

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The Independent Online
STANDARD Chartered, the international bank based in London, has doubled bad debt provisions to pounds 100m to cover its involvement in the Bombay stock exchange scandal.

The move depressed half-year profits to pounds 64m compared with pounds 83m in the same period last year.

The Indian fraud detracted from the bank's progress in other areas during the six months to 30 June. Profits increased in the Asia Pacific region, where it is strongest, and Africa. Its businesses in Britain, Australia and the US improved their performance overall.

The bank maintained the dividend at 7p. The shares fell 20p to 420p amid market concerns about the Indian problems.

Standard made a pounds 50m provision for India in May, when it announced it was investigating losses from securities transactions in its Bombay branch. The investigation showed it had been caught up in stock exchange frauds affecting other banks and financial institutions, that involved Indian bank receipts, a form of IOU.

'Continuing uncertainty' prompted the pounds 50m addition to its general provision, the bank said yesterday.

Standard Chartered has filed a pounds 162m 'complaint' with India's Central Bureau of Investigation, alleging criminal fraud and conspiracy against a number of individuals. The bank dismissed nine employees, two of whom have been arrested and brought before a special court.

Standard is trying to recover lost money through various means including civil claims against financial institutions.

It sent a senior team from London to see the problems through.

High interest rates and difficult operating conditions cost the Indian business an additional pounds 18m in the six months. To meet a liquidity shortage in the Indian interbank markets Standard lent dollars 800m ( pounds 410m) from group resources to the Indian branches.

Rodney Galpin, chairman, said: 'We have no reason to believe the Indian situation is other than a unique and isolated event.' Standard's control systems were not to blame, he added.

But in June the Indian central bank governor cited Standard Chartered as responsible for part of the system's failure because its own systems had failed.

Total bad debt provisions for the bank were pounds 118m, up from pounds 105m a year ago, with pounds 100m relating to India. Provisions in the UK were pounds 37m against pounds 96m.

The bank recovered a pounds 25m credit from Coopers & Lybrand over a claim relating to MiniScribe, a computer company. In April it was awarded dollars 338m for a claim against Price Waterhouse for losses related to United Bank of Arizona, but has not yet included a credit.

The bank said no new non- performing commercial loans of significance or any receiverships were identified in the first half after improved credit management.

Fee and commission income rose, but reduced volumes in foreign exchange and bullion markets, plus the weak dollar, held other revenues back.

By region, pre-tax profits in Asia Pacific rose to pounds 115m from pounds 104m in the same period a year ago, Australia cut losses to pounds 1.2m (loss pounds 5.7m), the UK and Europe reduced profits to pounds 35m ( pounds 40m), Africa lifted profits to pounds 23m ( pounds 19m) and in the Middle East and South Asia, which includes India, profits fell to pounds 4m ( pounds 18m).

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