Barclays beats expectations but suspends buybacks after U.S. trading blunder

A branch of Barclays Bank is seen, in London, Britain, February 23, 2022.

Peter Nicholls | Reuters

LONDON — Barclays on Thursday said it had suspended its planned share buyback program on the back of a costly trading error in the U.S.

It comes as it reported expectation-beating profit for the first quarter, as strong investment banking performance helped drive income growth.

The British bank announced last month that it had sold $15.2 billion more in U.S. investment products — known as “structured notes” — than it was permitted to. Barclays said Thursday that it had postponed its share buyback program indefinitely and set aside a provision of £540 million as a result of the issue, which is currently being investigated by U.S. regulators. The bank had originally said it expected a hit of £450 million.

“Barclays believes that it is prudent to delay the commencement of the buyback programme until those discussions [with the SEC] have been concluded,” the bank said in its earnings release Thursday.

“Barclays remains committed to the share buyback programme and the intention would be to launch it as soon as practicable following resolution of filing requirements being reached with the SEC and the appropriate 20-F filings having been made.”

Earnings

Barclays reported first-quarter net profit attributable to shareholders of £1.4 billion ($1.76 billion), above analyst expectations of £644 million, according to Refinitiv data. It marks an 18% decline from the first quarter of 2021, when net profit came in at £1.7 billion.

Group income rose 10% year-on-year to £6.5 billion, driven by strong corporate and investment banking earnings during a spike market volatility.

“Our income growth was driven partly by Global Markets, which has been helping clients navigate ongoing market volatility caused by geopolitical and economic challenges including the devastating war in Ukraine, and by the impact of higher interest rates in the US and UK,” CEO C. S. Venkatakrishnan said in a release accompanying the results.

Other highlights for the quarter:

  • Total operating expenses increased to £4.11 billion, up from £3.58 billion in the first quarter of 2021, due to the rise in litigation and conduct charges resulting from the U.S. trading error.
  • CET1 ratio, a measure of bank solvency, came in at 13.8%, down from 15.1% in the final quarter of 2021.
  • Return on tangible equity hi 11.5%, down from 14.7% in the same quarter of last year, and the bank said it will continue to target RoTE of more than 10%.

The results come after a turbulent end to 2021, with long-time CEO Jes Staley resigning in November following an investigation by regulators into his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. He was replaced by Venkatakrishnan.

Shares are down by nearly 22% so far this year amid wider concerns over interest rates, inflation and a slowdown in growth.

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