London-listed Standard Chartered cleared to acquire Credit Agricole’s Turkish operation

The Turkish Competition Board has cleared British lender Standard Chartered Plc (LON:STAN) to buy Credit Agricole Yatirim Bankasi Turk AS, a unit of French banking group Credit Agricole SA (EPA:ACA), the regulator said on Monday on its website.

According to the statement, Standard Chartered has secured approval for the acquisition of the entire Credit Agricole Yatirim Bankasi Turk. It gave no details about the financial terms of the deal.

The target company, active since 1990, had assets of TRY74.9m (USD42m/EUR34m) at the end of last year. The Turkish bank provides corporate and investment banking services.

Standard Chartered is being investigated by the the New York Department of Financial Services over alleged improper transactions with Iran and scheduled a hearing on the matter for Wednesday.

According to Reuters sources cited today, Standard Chartered, which disagrees with these claims, is working to settle the charges before the hearing.

Analysts told the news agency last week that the US authorities could impose a fine of as much as USD1bn (EUR812m) on Standard Chartered, with rumours saying that the sum could even be higher than that, as the New York banking regulator is pushing the case.

Benjamin Lawsky, the head of the New York’s Department of Financial Services, said the bank could lose its licence unless it offers a satisfactory explanation at its upcoming hearing, Reuters said.

For more on Standard Chartered’s acquisitions, please click here.

For more on the US investigation of Standard Chartered, please click here.

Standard Chartered shares plummet after money laundering allegations

Banking group Standard Chartered plc (LSE:STAN) has seen its share price fall around 24% today after US regulators accused the institution of hiding 60,000 secret transactions for financial institutions in Iran.

The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) claims that the London-listed bank designed and implemented an “elaborate scheme” to use its New York branch as a front for prohibited dealings with Iran, a country that is subject to US economic sanctions, thereby hiding Iranian financial deals.

Specifically, the regulator claims that Standard Chartered laundered as much as USD250bn over almost ten years by stripping out payment data showing that the clients were Iranian, replacing it with false entries. Standard Chartered has been ordered to appear before the regulator to explain its “apparent violations of law” from 2001 to 2010.

Standard Chartered has strenuously denied the allegations, announcing that it “strongly rejects the position or the portrayal of facts as set out in the order issued by the DFS”. Further, Standard Chartered said that it “does not believe the order issued by the DFS presents a full and accurate picture of the facts”.

According to the bank, more than 99.9% of its transactions relating to Iran complied with the so-called U-turn regulations and the total value of transactions which did not follow the U-turn was under USD14m.

U-turn transactions involve money moved for Iranian clients among non-Iranian foreign banks and cleared through the US financial system. The U-turn framework was established by the US authorities to enable ongoing US dollar trade with Iran by other countries.

Standard Chartered said in a statement that it ceased all new business with Iranian customers in any currency over five years ago and is currently engaged in discussions with the relevant US agencies.

“We intend to discuss these matters with the DFS and to contest their position,” the bank stated.

Standard Chartered interested in buying Barclays Indian arm

Standard Chartered Bank India, a unit of British Standard Chartered Plc (LON:STAN), is leading a race to buy some INR25bn (USD438m/EUR351m) worth of retail operations of rival Barclays Plc (LON:BARC) in India, according to informed people cited today by the Economic Times.

An unnamed senior banker told the paper that Barclays is looking to exit the retail banking business and is selling its mortgage, personal loan and commercial banking assets, with some selected private and foreign banks looking at them.

Most foreign banks active in India have been facing pressure due to the economic decline derived from the credit crunch in 2008.

Barclays, which launched its consumer banking business in India in May 2007, was forced by non-performing loans to ease up on its expansion plans and reduce jobs in order to improve its performance in the country. The British bank cut 451 jobs in the year to March 2010, reducing its workforce in India to 1,083.

According to the Economic Times, Asia-focused Standard Chartered Bank wants to add Barclays’ Indian retail banking assets to its portfolio, after buying the rival’s credit card operations in December 2011.

An unnamed director of a consultancy firm which works with the two British banks told the paper that foreign banks in India had switched direction towards high-quality credit which produced increased income and stayed away from unsecured lending.

Standard Chartered Bank India has a portfolio including consumer, wholesale, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Islamic and private banking solutions.

The lender, former Chartered Bank, was founded in 1858 and is based in Mumbai.