Barclays Said in Talks With Bidder for Portugal Unit

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Barclays Plc is in advanced talks with a Spanish bidder to sell its Portuguese banking arm as the British bank accelerates disposals of unwanted assets, three people with knowledge of the plan said.

The sale would exclude the bank’s Portuguese credit-card business, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deal is private. Interested acquirers may include Bankinter SA, Spain’s seventh-largest bank, said two people.

Barclays Chairman John McFarlane, 68, vowed to speed up disposals from the non-core bank when he fired Chief Executive Officer Antony Jenkins this month, after growing frustrated with the slow pace of restructuring at the U.K.’s second-biggest lender. The planned disposals of consumer banking operations in Portugal and Italy follow CaixaBank SA’s purchase of Barclays’s retail business in Spain for about 800 million euros ($880 million) in September.

Joanne Walia, a London-based Barclays spokeswoman, declined to comment on the status of the deal. A spokesman for Bankinter in Madrid declined to comment.

Bankinter CEO Maria Dolores Dancausa said on Thursday that the bank has more of a “buying attitude than a selling one,” when asked about whether her bank was an acquisition target.

Unprofitable Business

The unprofitable Portuguese business will be sold for less than book value, said two of the people, indicating it’s worth below what investors would expect to receive if the company liquidated its assets. The unit made a pretax loss of 22.3 million euros in the first half of 2014, following losses in the previous three years, according to Portuguese Banking Association data.

Barclays has been cutting lending in Portugal as it seeks to refocus its consumer operations on the U.K. Total net exposure to the Iberian country decreased 24 percent to 6.5 billion pounds as the lender reduced loans and advances by 1.1 billion pounds, according to its annual report.

“Growth prospects in the southern European countries remain fragile and susceptible to external shocks,” Barclays said in the report.

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