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Standard Bank posts 5% rise in first-half profit

Africa’s largest lender by assets Standard Bank lifted first-half profit 5%, it said on Thursday, citing extensive continental operations that helped to bolster earnings despite a faltering South African economy.

FILE: A Standard Bank branch in Johannesburg. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Africa’s largest lender by assets Standard Bank lifted first-half profit 5%, it said on Thursday, citing extensive continental operations that helped to bolster earnings despite a faltering South African economy.

South African lenders’ domestic operations have been hit by difficult economic conditions, including high levels of personal debt and widespread unemployment. Earnings were flat at Standard Bank’s South African personal and business banking unit, but they more than doubled elsewhere on the continent.

Headline earnings per share - the main profit measure in South Africa - came in at 837.4 cents ($0.5591), against 794 cents in the same period last year.

Standard Bank also said it would exercise an option to dispose of its 20% stake in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s Argentinian operation - a relic from its failed attempt to become a global emerging markets lender by expanding into Russia and Latin America.

It abandoned that plan to focus on its home continent in a move that has delivered more stable profits. It said the proceeds from the stake sale would be reinvested to support this strategy.

The stake in ICBC Argentina contributed R432 million ($28.9 million) to headline earnings during the first half of the year and had a net asset value of R1.58 billion.

Standard Bank is expecting the transaction to deliver a gain of about R600 million.

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