By Anshuman Daga and Lawrence White
SINGAPORE/LONDON (Reuters) -Standard Chartered posted a forecast-beating 6% rise in first-quarter profit, sending its shares sharply higher, as the emerging-markets focused lender benefited from rising interest rates aimed at controlling inflation.
The London-headquartered lender, which is focused on Asia, Africa and the Middle East, now expects income growth this year to slightly exceed earlier guidance of 5-7%, underlining how banks' prospects are being lifted by policy rate hikes even as the global economic outlook dims.
StanChart's Hong Kong-listed shares jumped more than 12% at one point to their highest level since early March following the earnings report, compared with a 0.6% rise in the broader market.
Its London-listed stocks were trading 10% higher at 0722 GMT, as investors relished a 27% rise in revenues in the bank's financial markets business.
"Given the very strong capital position, it is highly likely that StanChart can announce (a) further buyback along with second quarter earnings," Citi analysts said in a note, adding that StanChart had reported solid results.
Statutory pretax profit for the bank increased to $1.49 billion in January-March, from $1.4 billion a year earlier. This compared with the $1 billion average estimate of 16 analysts as compiled by the bank.
"We are on track to deliver a 10% return on tangible equity by 2024, if not earlier," Group Chief Executive Bill Winters said in the results statement on Thursday.
While it was bullish on its returns prospects, StanChart hinted that tougher times may lie ahead as the Ukraine war threatens to puncture a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic continued to weigh on the bank's China business in particular, as closures of its branches amid ongoing virus restrictions drove an 18% decline in the bank's wealth management income compared with the same period a year ago.
StanChart took a $107 million charge due to the ratings downgrade of Sri Lanka, and a further $160 million charge on its exposure's to China's troubled real estate sector.
The bank's trading business reported income up 32%, with its macro trading unit reporting a record quarter as the bank benefited from volatility in energy prices.
Winters, who took charge in mid-2015, has tried to restore growth while creating a portfolio of digital assets in the last few years, after repairing the bank's balance sheet and slashing thousands of jobs in his early years.
But the company's share price has halved during his time.
The results came a day after larger rival HSBC shelved plans for new stock buybacks this year after reporting an unexpected hit to its capital as a cocktail of rising inflation, geopolitical tensions and economic weakness dented its prospects.
As of Wednesday's close, StanChart's London-listed shares had lost 2% over the past year versus a 10.4% rise for HSBC and a 24% decline for Barclays.
(Reporting by Anshuman Daga and Lawrence White; Editing by Kim Coghill and Sinead Cruise)