Exclusive: Barclays reviews options for payments business –sources

A view shows signage on a branch of Barclays Bank in LondonA view shows signage on a branch of Barclays Bank in London, Britain, March 17, 2023. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) – Barclays (BARC.L) is studying options for its global payments activities as a part of broader review into how it allocates resources, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Britain's third-biggest bank has in recent weeks been sounding out consultants to analyse whether some of the payments businesses should be expanded or combined with other providers through a merger or joint venture, they said.

Other European banks have moved to monetise their payments assets and strike commercial partnerships with specialist providers as they look to focus on their core strengths.

The review, which is in its early stages and may not result in any change to the structure, will include the activities that issue bank cards and those that offer payment services for merchants, one of the people added.

Barclays has already engaged at least one major consultancy firm and may hire others to split assignments, this person said.

"Our three businesses continue to perform well and our business mix is robust – growing our global payments business is a priority for us," a Barclays spokesperson said.

Barclays' payment activities are split between its UK Barclaycard business and its international Consumer, Card and Payments (CC&P) division, whose revenues grew 35% last year to 4.5 billion pounds ($5.68 billion) on the back of larger U.S. card balances, but the unit posted a 19% drop in pre-tax profit due to higher impairment charges.

UK Barclaycard had income of close to 1.1 billion pounds last year, 13% down on 2021, as higher card spending volumes were offset by customers paying off outstanding credit balances.

The payments study comes as Barclays had also drafted Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to conduct a strategy review of the entire banking group, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters. Bloomberg News reported on the BCG assignment in May.

How the bank should allocate resources between more predictable retail business and volatile returns from the investment bank has attracted investor scrutiny.

Underwhelming profit in 2022 and rising costs have weighed on Barclays shares, which have dropped about 1.6% this year, underperforming the STOXX index of 600 European banks (.SX7P) which has gained about 6.8%, while rivals such as BNP Paribas (BNPP.PA) and HSBC (HSBA.L) have risen 5% and 17% respectively.

A trading blunder last year that led to a $361 million penalty from U.S. authorities has also raised concern among investors about potential risks in the investment bank.

($1 = 0.7923 pounds)

Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro

Thomson Reuters

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