Standard Chartered (StanChart) notched up a ninth consecutive year of record earnings in 2011 on the back of buoyant growth in Hong Kong and Singapore, though rising competition for staff pushed up its wages bill.
London-based Standard Chartered reported a 2011 pretax profit of $6.8 billion, up 11 per cent from $6.1 billion a year earlier and in line with the average forecast from analysts polled by Reuters.
Lender, which makes more than three quarters of its profit in Asia, said on Wednesday strong growth in both investment and retail banking arms absorbed a 15 per cent rise in staff costs and a fall in profit in two of its biggest markets, India and Korea.
Underlying wage inflation was about 5 per cent as the bank competed to hire and retain staff, notably in China and India, chief executive Peter Sands said.
“Yes, we are facing acute competition for talent, but we are still managing to invest and keep a tight grip on costs,” Sands told reporters on a conference call. He said the bank paid about 800 million pounds ($1.3 billion) in bonuses to staff for last year, similar to 2010.
Total staff costs were $6.6 billion, up from $5.8 billion in 2010, but that was swelled by costs for a voluntary retirement plan in Korea, foreign exchange effects and the addition of 1,400 staff during the year.
Rival HSBC this week warned wages were rising in Asia.
Sands said the bank was likely to add 2-3 per cent to its 87,000 staff this year.
“Growth momentum will likely accelerate in 2012,” said Dominic Chan, an analyst at BNP Paribas in Hong Kong. “Key markets such as India are showing signs of improving, and the bank is well placed to gain market share in areas such as trade finance and wholesale banking.”
Its London-listed shares were up 2 per cent at 16.55 pounds at 1000 GMT, in line with a firmer bank sector index. The stock is up 17 per cent this year, valuing it at more than $62 billion. Its Hong Kong-listed shares rose 0.4 per cent.
Sands and analysts said the results beat forecasts after stripping out a far bigger than expected charge of $206 million for the Korean staff retirement plan.