Barclays to exit Africa in 'transatlantic' makeover

Tue Mar 1, 2016 11:13am EST
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By Jane Merriman and Lawrence White

LONDON (Reuters) - Barclays Plc will sell its Africa business as part of a plan by new Chief Executive Jes Staley to simplify the bank's structure and seek higher shareholder returns, it said after reporting a 2 percent profit drop and slashing its dividend.

The British lender plans to sell its 62 percent stake in Barclays Africa Group over the next two to three years, ending its presence on the continent after more than a century and becoming a "transatlantic" bank focused on the United States and Britain.

It would then concentrate on two divisions, Barclays UK and Barclays Corporate and International, to comply with ring-fencing regulations aimed at safeguarding its retail banking business from riskier operations.

The bank said it was cutting its dividend to 3 pence per share from 2016 from 6.5p in 2015, a move Staley said would help Barclays maintain capital levels while it disposes of unwanted assets. Its shares fell as much as 10.5 percent on Tuesday before recovering slightly to be down 9 percent by 1530 GMT.

"We are acutely aware of our shareholders being tired of the time it has taken to restructure Barclays," Staley said in his first results announcement since taking over one of the most prominent roles in British business in December.

Adjusted pretax profit fell to 5.4 billion pounds ($7.5 billion) for the year to Dec. 31 from 5.5 billion a year earlier, below an average forecast of 5.8 billion.

Staley told reporters he was comfortable with the bank's capital position, dismissing some concerns that Barclays might need a cash call to bring its common equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio, a key measure of financial strength, closer in line with rivals.

"There is no need for a rights issue," Staley told reporters.   Continued...

A woman walks from a banking hall within the Barclays Bank Kenya head offices in the capital Nairobi, March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya