Standard Bank’s expansion in some of Africa’s fastest-growing economies pays off

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African lender Standard Bank shrugged off the impact of a faltering economy in its home market as its extensive operations across the continent helped the company to a 5% increase in first-half profit.

Standard Bank has been expanding in some of Africa’s fastest-growing economies even as its domestic operations struggle in the face high personal debt and widespread unemployment in its home market.

Like rival Nedbank, Standard Bank delivered flat earnings at its South African personal and business banking business. Elsewhere on the continent, Standard Bank – Africa’s largest lender by assets – more than doubled earnings in personal and business banking.

“Whilst there may be headwinds in certain markets, the diversity of our businesses and breadth of our footprint provide us with some shelter,” CEO Sim Tshabalala said in a statement.

Headline earnings per share (HEPS) – the main profit measure in South Africa – came in at 837.4 cents ($0.5591), against 794 cents in the same period last year. That 5% increase was slightly better than the 3% posted by Nedbank on Wednesday and helped to lift Standard Bank shares by 1.2% in morning trade.

Standard Bank’s pivot back to Africa after its failed foray into global emerging markets has paid off in other ways, too.

The lender said it would exercise an option to dispose of its 20% stake in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s (ICBC) Argentinian operation – a relic from the abandoned strategy.

It expects to deliver a gain of about 600 million rand as a result of the transaction, adding that it will reinvest any proceeds into its Africa-focused operations, which have produced more stable profit.

However, a separate London-based partnership with ICBC, focused on financial markets and commodities, made a $129.5 million loss in the first half, largely attributable to a provision covering exposure to a single client that filed for bankruptcy.

Standard Bank has previously said the London-based ICBC joint venture would need 1.1 billion rand injected to support its business plan.

($1 = 14.9705 rand)

Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by David Goodman

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