Barclays sees Middle East driving investment bank

Mon Sep 3, 2012 7:37am EDT
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By Mirna Sleiman

DUBAI (Reuters) - The Middle East will be an important growth area in coming years for investment banks, including Barclays (BARC.L: Quote), as local wealth funds put their oil dollars to work buying European assets, a senior executive at the British bank said.

"If you look globally, the upside is in emerging markets and the Middle East is a key component of that," Makram Azar, global vice-chairman for investment banking at Barclays, told Reuters.

"We are committed to the Middle East. I do not see why our strategy would change," Azar said in an interview.

Last week's appointment of retail banker Antony Jenkins as Barclays group chief executive could see a shift from riskier investment banking, analysts said, as the lender tries to recover from an interest rate-rigging scandal that brought down former CEO Bob Diamond.

Barclays is also the subject of a British regulatory inquiry into payments to Qatar's sovereign wealth fund linked to its participation in an 11 billion pound ($17 billion) refinancing of the bank at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.

Azar would not comment on whether that inquiry might affect its business in the region.

While investment banking has been at the heart of recent troubles at Barclays, the unit delivered 54 percent of underlying first-half group profit.

BUSY ADVISING   Continued...

A city worker passes a Barclays bank branch in Canary Wharf, east London August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Olivia Harris