Fun banking facts: you can pick up Barclays shares cheaper than Royal Bank of Scotland’s in terms of valuation.
That’s right, the stock market thinks less of a bank that turns a profit (mostly) and pays a small dividend, than it does of Royal Bank of Scotland, which hasn’t made money in nearly ten years. Optimists think it might pay its first divvy this year, but only if the fates align.
Poor Jes Staley. Upon the release of the half-year numbers, the Barclays CEO said that the bank’s “restructuring is complete”.
“From 1 July we are the bank that we want to be,” he boldly declared.
If you forgive the thumping paper loss he made on pulling out of Africa, which marred the numbers, he also had a pre-tax profit of £2.34bn to talk about.
And yet he still wasn’t able to find any love in the heart of the city.
Why is there so little faith in this transatlantic super bank “with global reach”, particularly when compared with the industry’s problem child?
Perhaps it’s because, as far as the City is concerned, RBS is fixing its problems. It has one more really big nasty to get out of the way. That would be the packaging up and sale of dodgy mortgages that went on in the run up to the financial crisis. It will cost RBS (and therefore we taxpayers) several billion pounds.
Once that’s done, however, the worst should be out of the way.
I’d personally be a little more sceptical than London’s institutional investors are. RBS for many years looked like a rogue bank. To my mind, it has a lot still to prove.
But if you look closely at Barclays, you start to see why the City might have a point with its unflattering comparison of the two.
Barclays is the banking industry’s geezer! It’s a little bit fly. No bothersome British Government bail outs for us. We’ll get our clever chaps to rustle up some Qatari cash to keep the Treasury’s hands off us.
The consequences of that decision can be seen within the pages of legal disclosures that make the life of a banking reporter easy. When there’s nothing much to say about the results, you can always, but always, find some fun in the Barclays small print.
Forget the £700m tossed on to the PPI pile that made all the headlines. That’s just a common or garden misdeed that every one of the industry’s big guns have got a piece of.
It’s Barclays more esoteric troubles that worry people, and they should.
Numerous authorities are investigating the Qatari mess, and there will be civil actions to contend with too (the Qataris invested on very favourable terms and made a mint as a result).
With the Americans heavily involved, it’s clearly going to get very expensive.
And that’s not all. Barclays is fighting the US Department of Justice over the same mortgage issue RBS is preparing to settle, the only bank to take that tack.
Oh, and we shouldn’t forget Mr Staley’s attempt to out a whistleblower who upset one of his mates. Sorry, who tabled certain allegations against a senior director he had brought in.
Barclays describes this as a mistake, having concluded that Mr Staley must have thought it was ok to do what he did even though it was against the bank’s policy. It will be interesting to see if the Financial Conduct Authority agrees with that assessment.
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And so it goes, through those pages and pages of teeny tiny print.
The bank may be strategically where Mr Staley wants it to be, and it surely does look to be a lot more focussed than it once did.
But culturally? You have to wonder, and that might go some way towards explaining why the shares are so cheap. The industry’s super fly guys aren’t taking their stock holders very high. Perhaps they need a new approach.
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