Standard Chartered sees $330 million Iran fine, profit hit

Thu Dec 6, 2012 7:46am EST
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By Kelvin Soh and Steve Slater

HONG KONG/LONDON (Reuters) - Standard Chartered expects to pay $330 million to settle a case with U.S. regulators for breaking sanctions on Iran, the Asian-focused bank said on Thursday, a second such penalty which could almost wipe out its profit growth this year.

Standard Chartered already paid $340 million to New York's Department of Financial Services (DFS) in the third quarter, and the London-based bank said the settlement with federal and other state regulators was expected "very shortly".

The original DFS fine will cut pretax profit growth this year to around 5 percent, from an underlying profit rise of more than 10 percent, the bank said in a trading update - so the additional payment could leave profits near flat on the year.

The DFS, New York's banking regulator, said Standard Chartered had hidden financial transactions with Iran. The bank agreed to pay the civil penalty after its stock dropped due to the allegations and a threat to revoke its license to do business in New York.

The United States has led the drive for sanctions, hoping to halt an Iranian nuclear program which Washington suspects is aimed at producing weapons although Tehran says it is peaceful.

Even slim earnings growth would mean a 10th straight year of record profits, as StanChart has ridden on Asia's rise through much of the last decade, allowing it to continue hiring and increasing earnings when much of the industry is shrinking.

Finance Director Richard Meddings estimated Standard Chartered could have to pay $320-330 million next year under a British bank levy. This is about $65 million more than originally expected, due to finance minister George Osborne's announcement on Wednesday that the levy would be raised.

Standard Chartered expects to pay about $210 million under the tax this year, up from $165 million in 2011, and warned that there has been a "significant and increasing cost of regulation", in particular for liquidity.   Continued...

A woman walks down the stairs of the Standard Chartered headquarters in Hong Kong in this October 13, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/Files