The long-awaited publication of Barclays’ (BARC) strategic review has stirred investors’ enthusiasm with the bank rising 4.2% to 314.30p after the report’s findings were laid out.
The UK’s second largest bank by assets has spent hundreds of years building up its reputation, only for it to be damaged following a series of scandals and disclosures about its operating practices in recent years. This led to several senior managers leaving the bank.
The review is an attempt to restore this reputation and was announced following Anthony Jenkins’ appointment as group chief executive in August 2012. He replaced Bob Diamond who was forced out after the bank was fined £290 million for its role in the manipulation of Libor in the four years to 2009.
Jenkins, a former head of Barclays’ retail and business banking division, examined 75 of its business units to assess their return on equity and impact on the bank’s reputation.
Following the review Barclays has made several commitments, which include reducing its staff by 3,700 this year, almost half of which will be in its corporate and investment bank, and cutting £1.7 billion of costs by 2015.
The expected closure of its controversial tax avoidance unit was confirmed, while strategically the bank will focus investment in the UK, the USA and Africa while maintaining an ‘appropriate presence’ in Europe and Asia to support its global investment banking operations. Its European retail operations will focus on affluent customers.
Barclays says it intends to provide greater disclosure and transparency around its financial performance. As a public company, it is already supposed to do this.
Alongside the review the bank released its results for 2012, where it made a £7,048 million adjusted pre-tax profit, up from £5,590 million a year ago. When you include the one-off items, the 2012 statutory pre-tax profit drops to a mere £246 million.
The huge fall in profits was partly the result of the bank allocating funds to pay its fines and compensation payments for its various scandals. The bank has put aside more than £2 billion to compensate those to which it mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) and interest rate hedging products. It also saw a £4,579 million credit charge.
Another headache for Jenkins is the Serious Fraud Office investigation into Barclays’ payments to Qatar Holding, which is part of the Qatar Investment Authority. It has been alleged that the bank misled shareholders over who was investing £3 billion into the bank in 2008. Barclays needed the funds to avoid it approaching the government for a bail-out.
Investec analyst Ian Gordon believes the bank will continue to generate good financials. In a research note he explains that Barclays has returned 103% since the Libor scandal and he expects it to continue outperforming the sector. Not all analysts are so impressed. Simon Willis at Daniel Stewart believes Barclays’ ROE (Return on Equity) target of 11.5% above the cost of equity by 2015 is a ‘significant challenge’.
The news from Barclays had a positive effect on the wider banking sector. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was up 2.4% to 348.5p, while HSBC (HSBA) nudged up 0.4% to 721.4p and Lloyds (LLOY) improved 3.2% to 54.44p.