File photo: A Standard Chartered bank branch in Singapore. Image Credit: REUTERS

London: Standard Chartered’s adjusted pretax profit was $2.61 billion in the first half, the bank reported on Thursday, higher than the company-compiled $2.50 billion estimate. Standard Chartered said it remains confident of a full-year return on tangible equity greater than 10 per cent in 2021.

“Trade protectionism is bad for the global economy, and fears concerning this matter continue to affect sentiment across global markets and on the ground in many of our locations,” Chairman Jose Vinals said in a statement. “However, we stand to benefit over time as China continues to open and places more emphasis on trade corridors radiating through Asia and connecting it with our markets in Africa and the Middle East.”

Standard Chartered’s Hong Kong-listed shares have risen about 9 per cent this year, while its London-listed stock is up about 12 per cent. The bank’s performance has been boosted by a $1 billion stock buy-back program announced in April, and about $740 million of this is complete, the bank said on Thursday. Expectations are growing that the lender could announce a further $1 billion repurchase next year.

The first six months of the year were marked by the end of a long-running investigation into Standard Chartered’s involvement in transactions that violated sanctions with Iran, which cost the bank $1.1 billion to settle with US and UK authorities. The settlement opened the way to the share buy-back program.

Winters last month drew controversy after seeming to criticise investors who complained about his pension payments. In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, he said those arguing against the six-figure award were “immature.”