* PrimeCredit earned after-tax profit of $32.4 mln in 6
months to June
* Auction likely to attract interest from China, Singapore
* StanChart shares up 0.8 pct in flat overall market
By Denny Thomas and Saeed Azhar
HONG KONG/SINGAPORE, Feb 19 Standard Chartered
Plc is seeking buyers for a Hong Kong consumer finance
business worth $500 million to $700 million, according to people
familiar with the matter, as the Asia-focused lender sells off
A sale would come after the London-based bank in November
said it aimed to use capital more effectively. It said it would
close or sell small units that are not in its biggest markets,
do not work well with other operations or do not produce
Standard Chartered, which recently reshuffled
management after saying 10 years of earnings growth likely ended
in 2013, is also considering the sale of its Swiss private bank,
Reuters reported last week.
Standard Chartered is working with an advisor to sell Hong
Kong consumer finance business PrimeCredit Ltd, which the bank
bought in 2004, said the people, who declined to be identified
as discussions are confidential.
The bank is likely to kick off an auction to sell
PrimeCredit in the next few weeks, they said.
A Standard Chartered Hong Kong-based spokeswoman, in an
emailed response to a query on the matter from Reuters, said "We
don't comment on market speculation."
Standard Chartered's Hong Kong-listed shares were up 0.8
percent by Wednesday afternoon, whereas the benchmark Hang Seng
index was up 0.3 percent.
Over the past year, the bank's London-listed shares have
fallen 23.6 percent compared with a 19.2 percent fall in the
FTSE All Share Banks Index.
CONSUMER FINANCE BUSINESS
Standard Chartered operates consumer finance businesses in
Asia in Hong Kong and South Korea, and is in the process of
selling the latter, Reuters previously reported.
PrimeCredit is a Hong Kong high-street lender specialising
in high-interest loans for customers little credit history.
The lender booked after-tax profit of HK$251 million ($32.4
million) for the six months to June, 5 percent more than in the
same period a year earlier, regulatory filings show. Impairment
charges jumped 36 percent to HK$169.6 million.
The auction for PrimeCredit is likely to attract interest
from banks in Australia, China and Singapore, the people said.
Banks from those countries had shown strong interest in the
sale of two Hong Kong family-run banks last year.
Last month, Standard Chartered announced a shake-up in its
top ranks which resulted in Mike Rees becoming deputy to Chief
Executive Peter Sands. The bank also said it would combine its
wholesale and consumer units from April.
The announcement came after the bank in December said 10
years of growth had likely ended because of tougher
international banking regulations, substantial loss in Korea,
and slowdown in Asian markets.
The bank earns more than three-quarters of profit in Asia,
the Middle East and Africa. Its limited presence to Western
markets helped it come through the 2008 financial crisis
relatively unscathed, and made it a stock-market favourite
because of its exposure to faster growth in those emerging