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'Good progress' in Standard Chartered restructuring as profits soar

Banking group Standard Chartered has cheered "good progress" in its turnaround efforts as first quarter profits nearly doubled after lower bad debts and cost cutting.

The Asian-focused bank, which is listed in London, saw shares lift 3% after it posted pre-tax profits of 990 million US dollars (£772 million) for the first three months of 2017, up from 500 million US dollars (£390 million) a year earlier.

Chief executive Bill Winters, who is leading a restructure at the bank after taking the top job nearly two years ago, said the improved performance was largely down to a sharp drop in bad loans as well as cost savings.

He said: "We are making good progress improving the performance of the group.

"Competition in our markets remains intense but our investments in the business and focus on our clients is making us more competitive and will enable us to deliver sustainable income growth over time."

The first quarter performance came after it narrowed losses to 478 million US dollars (£372.9 million) in 2016 from 2.4 billion US dollars (£1.9 billion) in 2015, which marked its first annual loss since 1989.

Mr Winters has been slashing costs under an overhaul, axing 15,000 jobs across the group and selling off or restructuring more than 100 billion US dollars (£78 billion) of risky assets.

The overhaul comes after the bank was left with surging loan impairments following over-expansion in the 2000s.

The group took a 55 million US dollar (£42.9 million) charge for its restructuring in the first quarter, but with this stripped out, underlying profits were 94% higher at 1.05 billion US dollars (£819 million).

But it has been hit with fresh compliance woes in recent months after it was slapped with a near £3 million fine from Singapore's financial regulators for breaching anti-money laundering rules.

It also admitted in November that Hong Kong's financial regulator planned to take action against the bank over its role as a joint sponsor of an initial public offering in 2009.

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