By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Standard Bank, Africa's largest bank by assets, reported a better-than-expected 14 percent rise in full-year earnings on Thursday after booking strong income from lending.
Standard Bank said headline earnings per share totalled 1,064.9 cents for the period ended in December, from 935 cents last year. Headline EPS, the benchmark profit measure in South Africa, excludes certain one-time items.
Analysts had penciled in a 10 percent increase in earnings for 2013.
Net interest income, a measure of earnings from lending, increased by 15 percent to 39 billion rand. Credit impairments, or bad debt charges, rose 5 percent to 9.2 billion rand.
Banks in Africa's largest economy have struggled as high unemployment and household debt levels have blunted demand for loans and hurt corporate spending.
Non-interest income, which includes revenue from arranging deals and advisory services, went up 6 percent 34.3 billion rand.
Standard Bank, 20 percent owned by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), is positioning itself as a full-service gateway to Africa, where it has operations in 18 countries.
The bank has set up representative offices in Ethiopia, a huge African market with limited banking services, and in Ivory Coast to target francophone nations on the continent.
The lender is also selling a 60 percent stake in its London-based global markets unit to China's ICBC for $765 million, the latest sale in its strategy to hive off operations outside Africa to focus on fast growing sub-Saharan economies.
The London-based investment banking, transaction products and principal investment management businesses are not included in the deal.
Standard Bank is the last of South Africa's "big four" to report. Rivals Barclays Africa and Nedbank posted increases of 14 and 15 percent respectively.
Standard Bank shares are down 3.7 percent this year, lagging Johannesburg's blue-chip index, which is up 3.5 percent.