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Barclays Africa Registers 25% Profit Decline and Confirms Interest, Report

Barclays has revealed it has received approaches for its African operations which its former chief executive Bob Diamond wants to buy as it reported a 25% decline in first quarter profits and losses on oil-related loans.

Jes Staley, the Barclays new CEO.

The bank, currently undergoing a restructuring under new chief executive Jes Staley, reported first quarter profits of £793m and a 15% rise in bad debts, largely a result of problems facing clients in the oil and gas sector.

Staley, an American banker who took the helm in December after a hiatus in the boardroom, said there had been expressions of interest in the African business, which was put on the market last month.

“On Africa, we continue to explore opportunities to reduce our shareholding to a level that achieves regulatory DE-consolidation, including capital market and strategic options, and we are pleased with the level of indicative interest in what is a high quality business,” said Staley.

He did not name any of the potential buyers for Barclays Africa, a complex business which is listed on the Johannesburg stock market and in which Barclays has a 62.5% stake. However, Diamond, who was chief executive of Barclays before being forced out in the wake of the Libor rigging scandal, said on Tuesday that he had the funding in place to table a potential offer.

Staley does not necessarily want to sell off the entire stake in Barclays Africa, but lower it to below 20% as part of a plan to preserve capital, which has already led him to cut the dividend for this year and next year.

A year ago the bank’s profits were knocked by £1bn of charges in anticipation of fines for rigging foreign exchange markets and more payouts for payment protection insurance. This quarter the charge for such misconduct was £78m.

The bank had already warned that trading in its investment banking arm once the powerhouse of the business was slowing and profits in this division were down 31%.

Problems facing clients in the oil and gas sectors are among those reasons why Barclays bank in Africa is not doing well.

Staley has created two major divisions at Barclays: a UK arm, and a corporate and international division, in anticipation of the ring fencing rules that come into force in 2019 and require separation of risky investment banking operations from UK high street customers.

There is also a non-core division that includes parts of the investment bank, parts of its continental retail bank on Wednesday it announced talks to sell its 74-branch network in France to AcaCap Financial Partners and its Egypt and Zimbabwe banks.

The bank’s chairman, John McFarlane, has previously set out a preference for UK to remain part of the EU and as it published its first quarter figures the bank warned that it was “cautious as we approach the 23 June EU referendum”.

McFarlane will chair the bank’s annual general meeting on Thursday where he will face questions about the cut to the dividend, despite his pledge to bolster payouts to shareholders.

By Robert Muriisa.

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