Standard set ‘to sell’ part of UAE business

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Standard Chartered is aiming to sell part of its business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after it agreed to close some accounts there in an anti-money laundering settlement with US authorities, sources said.

Under the settlement announced last week, the bank agreed to pay a $300m fine, end high-risk relationships with small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE, and suspend processing of dollar-denominated payments for some clients at its Hong Kong unit.

One source, who declined to be named, said the British bank intended to retain a limited number of larger SME accounts in the UAE which provided higher revenues and low risk of violating money laundering rules.

These accounts would go through a re-qualification process, which could mean requiring the holders to submit additional documents. The rest of the SME accounts would be offered for sale as a business.

The UAE central bank said last week that between 1,400 and 8,000 Standard Chartered accounts in the country were expected to be affected by the US settlement. It said the bank would be liable to legal action by account owners because of “material and moral damage” to them.

“Reviewing portfolios is a normal part of business and we will not be commenting specifically on the statement from the UAE Central Bank,” Standard said.