By Lawrence White and Iain Withers
LONDON (Reuters) – Barclays will pay out more than a billion dollars in dividends and buybacks to shareholders after beating first-half profit forecasts as bad loan fears receded and investment banking fees remained strong.
The British bank, which reported a near-quadrupling in first-half profits, said it would pay an interim dividend of 2 pence per share, equivalent to around 340 million pounds in total, after the Bank of England in July scrapped payout curbs.
Barclays will also buy back 500 million pounds of its own shares, as it forecast bad loan charges would remain below historical levels due to the improved economic outlook and low default rates on unsecured lending.
CEO Jes Staley, the subject of long-running succession speculation, told reporters he planned to stay a “couple more years” but would at some point look at succession plans.
The bank said that the full impact of the wind-down of government support measures on customer finances was not yet known.
“No one has really lived through the unwind of these schemes, and therefore we don’t entirely known how many furloughed people will get jobs or not get jobs,” Finance Director Tushar Morzaria told Reuters.
Barclays shares were up 3% at 1130 GMT.
The bank reported profit before tax of 5 billion pounds ($6.94 billion) for the six months to June 30, well above the consensus forecast of 4.1 billion pounds from analysts polled by the bank and up from 1.3 billion a year ago.
The results were boosted by the British lender releasing 742 million pounds in cash set aside for bad debt charges that have yet to materialise, as government support measures prop up the economy.
“Barclays undertaking a further share buyback and upping its half-year dividend marks another step on the road to recovery for the UK’s major banks and financial sector, at large, from the dark days of dividend suspensions,” said John Moore, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin.
The British bank’s positive set of results matched a similar forecast-beating first half for German rival Deutsche Bank, which also saw results boosted by lower provisions.
Barclays’ investment bank continued its strong run, as volatile markets during the pandemic led to frenzied trading, while companies have raised record amounts through blank-cheque investment funds and stock listings.
Equities income rose 38% and investment banking fees from advising on deals rose 27% in the first half of the year, Barclays said.
Its fixed income, currencies and commodities (FICC) business meanwhile fell 37% against a strong first half a year earlier.
The bank said its costs rose 10%, mainly from 300 million pounds of expenses associated with cutting its real estate footprint and higher bonuses due to its improved performance.
Analysts said that while Barclays’ results were strong, it would need to rein in those costs and put forward a convincing plan to improve revenue in the longer term.
“The key question as with other banks, is the outlook on the growth of their loan book and net interest income,” said Sudeepto Mukherjee, financial services consultant at Publicis Sapient.
“Barclays shares have been under pressure in the last few months and we have not seen them capture significant share from the buoyant mortgages market in the UK,” he said.
($1 = 0.7206 pounds)
(Reporting by Lawrence White and Iain Withers; editing by John O’Donnell, Jason Neely and Jane Merriman)