Standard Chartered Eyes Big Growth in Lending to Smaller Companies

Sep 2013
Global, September, 26 2013 - Standard Chartered PLC will seek to increase lending to small and medium-size enterprises in emerging markets by nearly half over the next five years, even though economic growth has slowed and analysts warn of rising losses from bad loans.

The push to ramp up lending across Asia, Africa and the Middle East comes just weeks after the bank said net profit slumped during the first half of the year, hit by weakening economies in Asia and a $1 billion write-down at its South Korean operations.

Although it is headquartered in London, Standard Chartered draws around 90% of its operating profit from emerging markets and three-quarters of its revenue from Asia.

Under its new plan, the bank wants to increase lending to small and medium-size businesses, or SMEs, by 45% to around $30 billion by 2018, up from around $21.1 billion last year.

The new lending facilities will include trade-finance loans, business-equipment loans, unsecured loans, overdrafts, leases and mortgage loans.

"SMEs are the true backbones of a number of economies in which we operate—and also vital drivers of long-term economic growth and job creation," Chief Executive Peter Sands said.

The bank largely glided through the global financial crisis and economic slump thanks to buoyant growth in some key emerging markets.

But those markets have been roiled in recent months as foreign investors fled in anticipation of the U.S. Federal Reserve beginning to wind down its massive bond-buying program, a move that would end a long period of easy money that supported growth from China to Brazil.

Anticipation of the shift has sparked fears of a credit crunch for projects ranging from infrastructure development to business expansion. That would further choke growth in emerging markets at a time when developed economies continue to grow slowly.

This month, Barclays lowered its recommendation on Standard Chartered's stock to "equal weight" from "overweight," warning of the risk from a slowdown in countries such as Indonesia and India, given their large current-account deficits and heavy reliance on foreign capital.

Standard Chartered's Mr. Sands played down those worries in August and said slower economic growth in some parts of Asia would be offset by upticks in India and Africa.

Hong Kong-listed shares in Standard Chartered are down 3.5% this year, compared with a 2% gain for the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

As part of the lending drive, Standard Chartered will expand a small-business training program to an additional 5,000 businesses across 10 countries.

Mr. Sands was planning to unveil the lender's new growth plan at the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual conference hosted in New York by former U.S. President Bill Clinton that brings together high-profile figures from the world of politics, business and philanthropy to discuss the world's biggest problems.


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