* Profit bounces to $1 billion
* Loan impairments fall 58 percent
* Shares up 3 pct, investors eye return of dividend
(Updates shares, adds analyst reaction)
LONDON, April 26 (Reuters) - Standard Chartered
almost doubled its profit in the first three months of the year
after a sharp fall in losses from bad loans, raising the
prospect of the Asia-focused bank resuming dividend payments.
StanChart said it made a pre-tax profit of $1 billion, up
from $589 million in the same period a year ago. The bank booked
a $198 million pound loan impairment charge, much less than the
roughly $500 million expected by analysts.
StanChart is attempting to show investors it can return to
growth after a sweeping restructuring under Chief Executive Bill
Winters succeeded in cutting costs but at the expense of much
"This is an encouraging first quarter but we are not getting
carried away," Chief Financial Officer Andy Halford told
reporters on a conference call.
StanChart's shares rose as much as 4 percent in London
before settling up 3 percent by 0915 GMT on Wednesday following
the results announcement, the best performing stock in the
European STOXX index of major bank shares.
The bank's shares have risen 13 percent in the year to date,
with analysts saying it is among the best positioned of its
peers to benefit from increasing U.S. interest rates and
stronger trade flows in Asia, where it has most of its business.
Standard Chartered's core capital ratio rose to 13.8
percent, making StanChart one of the best-capitalised major
Europe-based banks and increasing the prospects of a return to
dividend paying after it dropped payouts for 2016 due to
CFO Halford said the bank's board is aware of the appetite
from shareholders for a resumption in dividends, but said the
bank must first ensure its recovery can be sustained and that
StanChart can meet changing regulatory capital demands.
"Shareholders want confidence when dividends resume that
there will be an enduring flow," he told reporters.
Analysts sounded a note of caution following the results,
noting that while the bank's falling bad loan costs were
impressive it is still struggling to grow its revenues.
"Revenue performance was flattered by lower quality
sources," said Joseph Dickerson, analyst at Jefferies in London.
The bulk of the bank's improved revenues in the first
quarter came from 'asset-liability management'- fine-tuning of
the bank's debts and investments rather than sustainable fresh
income from customers.
(Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Keith Weir)