New Barclays Chief Faces Tricky Course as he Reshapes The Bank

Bob Diamond

The last time Qatar Holding flogged half its warrants in Barclays was October 2009.

The bank's share price then halved over the next two years, making the trade a smart piece of business. Now Qatar is banking a smaller profit by selling its remaining warrants, albeit keeping its 6.6% direct shareholding. What's going on? Don't the Qataris know the fun is about to start at Barclays as new chief executive Antony Jenkins wows shareholders by cutting Bob Diamond's expensive investment banking division down to size?

Of course, we don't know why Qatar wants to cash a few chips now – the fund moves in mysterious ways, as Xstrata's red-faced directors found out the hard way. But perhaps it feels that expectations for Jenkins' overhaul have been raised to hard-to-satisfy levels.

Jenkins is up against it. Many of his shareholders do indeed want to see a significant overhaul of the investment bank; they can see that, in a ring-fenced world, capital for investment banking games will be more expensive and economic returns harder to generate.

But does he dare to be bold? There will be cuts next February, inevitably, but investment banking accounts for about half of Barclays' profits. It is quite easy to imagine Jenkins will play safe and opt for a restructuring that falls short of radicalism. He's been consistent on two points from the off: that Barclays will be a universal bank and that his overhaul will take time. We may yet be surprised, but he doesn't look like an axeman.

Powered by article was written by Nils Pratley, for The Guardian on Monday 26th November 2012 22.57 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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