Barclays share price rises, despite 10% fall in profit and £900m PPI charge

It's not the first, and it's not the last company to blame currency issues for falling profits - but revenues in its investment banking division slipped too. Shareholders are clearly not worried.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 01 Aug 2014

For banks and other large multinational businesses, currency fluctuations are kind of like the weather for retailers: you can blame pretty much anything on it. So this morning, when Barclays said profit before tax had fallen 10% to £3.8bn in the six months to the end of June, currency provided a convenient excuse. Income also fell 7% to £12.7bn.

In reality, although fluctuations in currency can have a devastating effect on banks (particularly one with as large an international presence as Barclays), other factors affected it too: income in Barclays' investment bank - which admittedly is in the process of being reduced, but still provides a hefty chunk of its annual cash - fell 18%, 'driven by a 22% decrease in markets'. And then there's its ever-growing Africa banking arm, which grew by just 3% (those pesky currency fluctuations again).

The investment bank has come a long way from its glory days: under Bob Diamond it was one of the most respected in the world. In May, it cut 7,000 jobs. Then there's the £900m it had to pay out in PPI (although that's down from last year's £1.3bn).

And it doesn't help that Barclays is in the process of being sued by the New York Attorney General over the state of its darkpool, or anonymous trading platform (it allegedly said there were no high-volume traders in there. It turned out that, allegedly again, 75% of the traders in the pool were high-volume) - although it denies the charges. Trading volumes in the pool - which had been the second-most popular on Wall Street - plummeted when the accusations were made, although they've since bounced back.

The more encouraging news was that charges on bad loans dropped (or 'improved') 13% to £937m. The bank said that was down to UK's economic environment improving and lower impairment charges on mortgages in Africa.

So whether it likes it or not, with retail doing (comparatively) well and the investment bank on the slide, Barclays' Great Rebalancing - aka removing the focus from the investment bank and concentrating on nice, fluffy, retail banking - is going ok. Antony Jenkins, the company's willfully unswashbuckling chief exec, said profits in the company's personal and corporate banking (ie retail banking) arm rose 23% and 24% respectively.

He also pointed out that Barclays'  new 'non-core unit', otherwise known as its bad bank, which launched in May, has helped to improve things.

'Risk-weighted assets [reduced] by £22bn in the first half,' he said, adding that although 'performance in the investment bank was impacted by the repositioning underway as well as a difficult trading quarter... it is where we are expected to be at this point'.

That was clearly enough for shareholders: shares opened up nearly 2.7% this morning. Not bad.

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