Cheerio, British Investment Banks

Barclays' BZW is the latest to quit amid fierce competition

British investment banks are going the way of the dodo. On Oct. 3, Barclays Bank PLC put a big chunk of its investment-banking operation on the block. Americans or Europeans are thought to be possible buyers. The news came just two months after National Westminster Bank PLC downsized its own troubled investment bank, NatWest Markets. And it wasn't that long ago, in 1995, that four major British investment banks were sold to foreign companies. In fact, Barclays' BZW unit was the only British investment bank still making a pretense of battling it out on a global scale with the major U.S. and Continental houses.

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