Standard Chartered Plc <2888.HK> said on Wednesday its nine-month underlying profit grew at a double-digit rate, helped by a strong showing in markets including Hong Kong, putting the Asia-focussed bank on track for a ninth straight year of record earnings.

The UK bank's business update comes on the same day lenders Westpac Banking Corp of Australia and DBS of Singapore posted strong earnings, signalling that banks that focussed on Asia and refrained from overly risky bets were still able to post growth.

Standard Chartered's income growth also exceeded its cost expansion, with expenses in the third quarter largely similar to the level recorded in the first half, the bank said in a statement posted on the Hong Kong bourse.

The lender did not give specific figures as it is only required to report those on a bi-annual basis.

StanChart has a strong balance sheet and no exposure to the trouble European countries, which I think is very reassuring to investors, said Dominic Chan, an analyst at BNP Paribas in Hong Kong. Overall, I think it was a very reassuring set of earnings.

INDIA WOES

Weighing on the results was a weak performance in India, which overtook Hong Kong as its biggest profit contributor last year. Earnings in India had already fallen almost 40 percent in the first half of this year.

South Korea, which was hit by a labour dispute earlier this year, was also muted, while Singapore and Hong Kong continued to perform strongly, Standard Chartered added.

Despite recent macroeconomic events, our markets continue to exhibit strong growth and their growth credentials remain intact, Chief Executive Peter Sands said in the statement.

For the full year, the bank is expected to see pre-tax profit rise by 12 percent to $6.88 billion (4.30 billion pounds), according to a poll of 26 analysts by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Its Hong Kong-listed shares are down about 15 percent so far this year, versus a 16 percent decline on the benchmark Hang Seng Index <.HSI>.

The London-headquartered bank, which makes more than 80 percent of its profit in Asia and other emerging markets, also said it had added staff during the year, in contrast to other lenders that have recently said they will start culling.

Credit Suisse Group AG said on Tuesday that it would cut 1,500 jobs and scale back on its capital-guzzling investment banking business, while rival HSBC Holdings Plc <0005.HK> said in August that it would remove 30,000 job roles by cutting out some middle management.

And Japan's top brokerage Nomura <8604.T>, which posted its first quarterly loss in 2-1/2-years on Tuesday, said on Tuesday it has tripled its cost-cutting target to $1.2 billion. Nomura is cutting an additional 700 jobs, mostly in Europe, a source said.

However, the same problems with high staff and overhead costs were also afflicting Standard Chartered's investment banking operations, which falls under its wholesale banking division. The unit saw its costs growing faster than income growth, a phenomenon known as negative jaws.

When you look at StanChart and compare it to the banks in Europe that are talking about trading income collapsing, I think it's done a fantastic job, said Chan at BNP Paribas. Negative jaws in its wholesale banking department is a small issue compared to some of the problems its rivals are facing.

The bank also said it did not have any direct sovereign exposure to Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece or Spain, and that such exposure to Europe as a whole was immaterial.

(Editing by Chris Lewis and Muralikumar Anantharaman)