Barclays to speed up pace of cost-cutting and asset sales after new mis-selling hit

Bank reports better than expected 12% rise in adjusted pretax profit to £1.85bn for the second quarter


Barclays’ new executive chairman sought to stamp his mark on the bank on Wednesday by accelerating the sale of assets and cost cutting, after the group reported an 12 per cent rise in profit and another big charge to compensate customers.

Chairman John McFarlane, who arrived at Barclays in April with a reputation for taking bold action, laid out plans for the bank’s revival after ousting chief executive Antony Jenkins earlier this month, saying the pace of change had been too slow.

“We need to accelerate the execution of the strategy,” Mr McFarlane said, pinpointing a need to speed up the growth in earnings, return on equity and capital generation, as well as cut out bureaucracy.

“Barclays ... remains far too hierarchical, bureaucratic and group-centric to deliver the required outcomes. I therefore want to see much more streamlined processes,” he said.

He said the bank would keep its dividend at 6.5 pence per share this year, the same as 2014, so it can build capital.

Barclays’ core capital rose to 11.1 per cent at the end of June from 10.3 per cent at the end of 2014, and the bank said it had no need to raise any, which some analysts said it should do.

“We don’t expect to be doing external capital raises,” Tushar Morzaria, finance director, told reporters.

Mr McFarlane said he plans to cut costs as a percentage of income to “mid 50s” percent, from 70 per cent in the first-half of the year, which is expected to involve cuts to staff numbers and branches.

The bank said it closed 98 branches in Britain in the year to the end of June, or 6 per cent of its network.

It is in the middle of a three-year plan to cut 19,000 jobs by the end of 2016, including 7,000 in the investment bank.

Mr McFarlane also said he plans to cut assets that Barclays no longer wants to £20 billion by the end of 2017. It had £57 billion of these “non-core” assets at the end of June and had previously planned to cut that number to £45 billion by the end of 2016.

These include derivatives products and its retail operations in Portugal and Italy, which the bank is trying to sell.

Mr McFarlane did not signal any major change in strategy for the investment bank, which is expected to be trimmed but remain a core part of the business.

Barclays set aside another £850 million in the second quarter to compensate UK customers, including £600 million to compensate customers mis-sold payment protection insurance products, which has now cost the bank £6 billion.

The investment bank’s return on equity improved to 10.2 per cent in the first six months of this year, from 5.7 per cent a year ago.

Barclays reported an adjusted pretax profit of £1.85 billion for the second quarter, up 12 per cent from a year ago and ahead of the average analyst forecast of £1.75 billion.

The higher mis-selling provision was largely offset by a £496 million gain based on a US court ruling related to the former assets of US investment bank Lehman Brothers. – Reuters