Barclays Said to Gauge Interest in Asia Wealth Business Sale

Updated on
  • Bank talking to prospective buyers ahead of potential sale
  • Asia move follows June sale of Americas operations to Stifel

Barclays Plc is sounding out potential buyers for its Asian wealth-management business as Chairman John McFarlane refocuses Britain’s second-largest lender on the most profitable businesses in the U.S. and U.K., said two people with knowledge of the matter.

While several parties have expressed interest in the business, the bank hasn’t taken a final decision on a sale, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Will Bowen, a spokesman at Barclays in London, declined to comment.

Jes Staley, 58, who will take over as chief executive officer next month, has pledged to restore profit growth at the lender, which has been hurt by rising costs tied to restructuring and past misconduct. A sale would put Barclays at odds with Credit Suisse Group AG and other European lenders that are seeking to tap a larger share of wealthy clients across Asia to bolster earnings.

Global wealth management revenue fell 17 percent to 227 million pounds ($342 million) in the third quarter from a year earlier, Barclays said last week. The unit has posted declining revenue for the past four quarters, contributing just 4 percent of the bank’s 5.6 billion pounds in revenue in the three months through September. Barclays didn’t give a breakdown for Asia wealth management.

Bennison Departure

Barclays has offered wealth management services in Asia since the early 1970s, with offices in cities ranging from Hong Kong to New Delhi and Singapore, according to its website.

Sara Bennison, chief marketing officer at the personal and corporate banking division, which includes the wealth unit, left Barclays, the bank said in an e-mailed statement. She joined in 2008, helping restore the bank’s reputation in the wake of a scandal linked to wrongly sold payment protection insurance that has cost the bank about 6 billion pounds in compensation to date.

McFarlane said in June that the bank is looking at the contributions of investment-banking operations in Asia and the Middle East, because they don’t have acceptable returns and “we don’t like places that don’t make money.” The lender, that same month, sold its U.S. wealth-management business with about $56 billion in client assets to Stifel Financial Corp. for an undisclosed price.

Barclays last week reported a third-quarter pretax profit, including restructuring costs, of 1.43 billion pounds, down 10 percent from a year earlier and below analysts’ estimates. It also cut a profitability target for 2016.

The shares rose 1.9 percent Friday in London, paring the loss this year to 4.6 percent.

(Updates with closing share price.)
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