Standard Chartered is one of the U.K.’s largest lenders, but due to slowdowns in the Asian market and plummeting oil prices it has had to implement massive layoffs and see its stock price tank. Many experts believe that Standard Chartered is simply the first victim in what could be a renewed banking crisis.
According to Bloomberg, since 2007, Standard Chartered “almost doubled lending to customers to $305 billion, and about 80 percent of its loans now are to Asian borrowers.” This strategy is backfiring, however, as the economic growth in China, South Korea, and Japan has slowed to a crawl. In addition to the massive amounts of Asian lending, over $61 billion of its loans were linked to commodities. With the price of oil dropping to its lowest prices in more than five years, the company is looking at a serious hit to its credit rating.
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Bloomberg reports that Standard Chartered was “forced to reduce its earnings forecasts three times in 2014,” and that it’s “market value of 21.9 billion pounds is about 30 percent less than its book value, indicating it is worth less than investors should expect to receive if the company failed and liquidated its assets.”
Standard Chartered is certainly not the only international lender with major ties to Asian markets and with loans linked to commodities. This very well could mean that they are just the first domino to fall in a possible new worldwide banking meltdown.
In addition, the recent commodity pricing controversy in Europe has led The Bank of England to announce rounds of stress-testing to many major lenders.
“The Bank of England is going to start stress-testing the emerging market book and commodities this year which will be significant for Standard Chartered,” Chirantan Barua, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, told Bloomberg. “If Lloyds Banking Group Plc with a 12 percent capital level almost failed last year’s test, then you can guess for yourself the stress on StanChart’s 10.5 percent level, if those books were exposed to the same intensity.”
The bottom line is that banks are going to be under significant scrutiny in 2015. If they have to raise capital, then there will be less money in circulation and that could lead to inflation. Most experts recommend keeping at least 10 percent of an investment portfolio in gold as a hedge against inflation and potential socio-economic issues. And these issues certainly appear to be on the horizon.