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Standard Chartered looking for acquisitions, HK IPO on track

Standard Chartered looking for acquisitions, HK IPO on track

Asian specialist bank Standard Chartered Plc says it is keeping an eye out for possible acquisition opportunities but would focus on organic growth for the immediate future. 'We always have a watching brief, but right now I think organic growth is one of our best bets,' said board director Mike DeNoma, adding the bank had not identified many suitable takeover opportunities yet.

Standard Chartered is headquartered in London, but it makes most of its money from Asia, where its main market is Hong Kong.

In recent years it has been fairly busy on the acquisitions front, with the purchase of a controlling stake in Thailand's Nakornthon Bank in 1999 and the takeovers of Grindlays bank and a Chase Manhattan Hong Kong banking unit two years ago.

DeNoma said integration of those acquisitions had gone well, but that in times of economic uncertainty it would be more prudent to focus on organic growth.

'Unless you get a deal at a very reasonable price, it's much better to grow organically,' said DeNoma.

On track for Hong Kong IPO

Standard Chartered has been hit hard over the last year by economic weakness in Hong Kong, which counts for around a third of group revenues.

Statistics this month showed that Hong Kong's retail sales fell for the fifth straight month in July as unemployment soared.

DeNoma, who is in charge of consumer banking at Standard Chartered, said Hong Kong's rising unemployment remained a cause for concern, but added that smaller markets like Taiwan and Thailand - where Standard Chartered has just broken into profit - were doing well.

He added that Standard Chartered remained on track for a share listing in Hong Kong in the fourth quarter of this year. The listing is designed to raise its profile in the region.

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