Exclusive: Barclays considers potential sale of UAE retail business

Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:19am EDT
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By Dinesh Nair

DUBAI (Reuters) - Barclays Plc is conducting a strategic review of its retail banking operations in the United Arab Emirates which could lead to a sale of the business, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Britain's fourth-largest bank by market value confirmed on Tuesday it was holding the review of the UAE retail business but did not provide any further comment. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as the matter is not public.

Under Chief Executive Anthony Jenkins, Barclays is axing at least 3,700 jobs, reining in pay of senior bankers and closing businesses across the group in the face of new regulatory curbs on risk.

Since taking the top job in August 2012, Jenkins has halted speculative trading in agricultural commodities and closed a profitable tax advisory unit.

Foreign banks in the United Arab Emirates face increased competition from local lenders that are cash-rich and do not face the same capital issues as their Western counterparts. They can lure top talent from international banks and are offering more sophisticated banking services to clients.

The industry is crowded - the UAE central bank's website lists 51 commercial banks operating in a country of about 8 million people, 23 of them local banks and 28 foreign lenders.

Some British banks have already exited retail banking in the Gulf state. In 2010, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, a part state-owned lender, bought the retail banking operations of Royal Bank of Scotland in a $100 million deal.

HSBC Holdings bought Lloyds Banking Group's onshore retail, corporate and commercial banking business in the UAE last year.   Continued...

A logo hangs outside a branch of Barclays bank in London July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Melville