“London is where we want to be,” Chief Executive Officer Robert Diamond told a conference in London today. “Of course, it’s our obligation on behalf of our shareholders to look at the alternatives, but this is home and where we want to stay.”
Barclays has reviewed the costs of moving to New York and has reviewed the obstacles to a move, the Wall Street Journal’s “Heard on the Street” column reported earlier today, citing an unidentified person involved in the process. The bank won’t take a decision until at least September, after the U.K.’s Independent Commission on Banking reports, the newspaper said.
John Vickers, the Oxford University professor and former Bank of England economist overseeing the government-backed commission, said in January he was examining ring-fencing, or subsidiarization, of banks’ operations. That could involve requiring banks to turn different business lines or overseas branches into stand-alone subsidiaries.
“The loser would be Barclays” were Vickers to recommend a geographic split because the bank would be forced to raise additional capital for its U.S. division, said Simon Maughan, co-head of European equities at MF Global Ltd. in London.
Barclays earned two-thirds of its first-half profit in 2010 from its investment-banking unit, which includes the former North American unit of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. A spokesman for Barclays in London declined to comment today.
“Any bank, in fact I am sure all banks are responsibly considering what their options might be,” Chairman Marcus Agius said when Barclays reported earnings in August. “We are not anticipating anything we haven’t been prescriptive about, what might or might not happen.”
“I had not known that they had gone from considering to confirmed that they’re moving here,” he told reporters at a press conference in the Bronx today. “I hope they move here. That would be great for us.” The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Diamond told U.K. lawmakers in January that London was the “premier financial center in the world.”
“There has been no city in the world that has benefited more or been more supportive of foreign trade and flows of business” than London, Diamond, 59, told the House of Commons Treasury committee on Jan. 11. “London has become a place that is recognized as very good for business and very good for talent. This is the place that we want to succeed.”
HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest bank, said on March 7 it prefers to keep its headquarters in London, amid speculation the lender is preparing to quit the U.K.
HSBC was planning to move its base back to Hong Kong because of Britain’s growing tax and regulatory burdens, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing unidentified investors. HSBC Chairman Douglas Flint and Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver said in a statement that talk of “imminent change” was “entirely speculative and presumptuous.”
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