March 2, 2017 / 1:58 PM / in 9 months

UPDATE 1-South Africa's Standard Bank seeks clarification on FX allegations

(Recasts with CEO, analyst comments, share price)

JOHANNESBURG, March 2 (Reuters) - Standard Bank, accused by South Africa’s anti-trust watchdog of being involved in the rigging of rand currency trading, has asked the regulator to spell out its specific allegations as the bank’s own investigations have not uncovered any wrongdoing.

South Africa’s Competition Commission said last month it had found more than a dozen local and foreign banks had colluded to coordinate trading in the rand and the U.S dollar using an instant chat room called ZAR Domination, a reference to the rand’s official currency market code.

“We are unable to determine from that precisely what the infraction we are accused of is,” joint-Chief Executive Sim Tshabalala said on Thursday, adding Standard Bank was seeking clarification from the Commission.

He said the bank had not suspended anyone as it had not found any evidence to justify such action.

“We have trawled chatrooms, phone calls, we have gone through thousands of records,” he said, adding the Commission had named only three Standard Bank employees in its report.

The Commission has recommended fines amounting to 10 percent of the banks’ South African revenues in a scandal that has piled political pressure on the four South African banks accused of being involved, which have about 90 percent of the national banking market.

Barclays Africa Group Chief Executive Maria Ramos said last week she “deeply regrets” her firm’s role in the foreign exchange rigging.

Standard Bank reported a 4 percent rise in full-year profit on Thursday, largely in line with expectations, but its shares rose as its operations in the rest of Africa performed better than expected.

“Rest of Africa makes up 25 percent of earnings and was up 3 percent, which, given the macro strain evident across the continent, is a credible result,” said Kagiso Asset Management investment analyst Meyrick Barker.

Shares in Standard Bank were up 6.2 percent at 155.52 rand by 1350 GMT, compared with a 0.6 percent rise in the JSE’s All-share index.

Standard Bank posted headline earnings per share (EPS) of 1,389 cents for the period to end-December, compared with 1,359 cents the previous year. Headline EPS is the main profit measure in South Africa and excludes certain one-off items. (Reporting by TJ Strydom; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Mark Potter)

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