Barclays keeping the Canary Wharf from the door

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Barclays PLC (LON:BARC) boss Jes Staley is possibly one of the few people looking forward to returning to the glorified wind-tunnel that is London’s Canary Wharf.

Around 75% of the bank’s workers are currently working from home, but it may be time for Barclays staff to get the two-piece whistle dry-cleaned and to reacquaint themselves with the concept of a travel season ticket if Staley’s comments in a conference call on Thursday are any guide.

Speaking following the announcement of full-year results from the banking giant, Staley said he looked forward to welcoming colleagues back to the office.

“That will certainly happen sometime this year,” Staley said.

Many of those workers will find themselves slogging into London and despite some scaremongering about other European centres eating London’s lunch – lunches are for wimps anyway – Barclays’ American boss thinks “London will be fine”.

“London has got some tremendous assets and I don’t think it’s in anybody’s interest to shrink the second-largest capital market in the world,” Staley was reported as saying.

After a year in which the British economy was knocked for six by the coronavirus pandemic, Staley’s money is on an economic recovery picking up pace in the second half of the current year.

“Consumers have massively pulled back and focused on the strength of their personal balance sheets,” Staley said. A spending splurge is expected once consumers get over their fear of the virus.

That would be a stark contrast to 2020, a year in which Barclays provided more than 680,000 loan repayment holidays to customers, waived around £100mln of interest and fees to customers and committed £100mln to a COVID-19 Community Aid Package.

Barclays UK’s income slumped 14% in 2020 to £6.3bn from 2019, reflecting lower unsecured lending balances and interest rates, and COVID-19 customer support actions, albeit partially offset by mortgage lending growth.

In contrast, Barclays International’s income rose 8% to £15.9bn, driven by a 22% increase in Corporate and Investment Bank income to £12.5bn.

The deterioration in economic outlook driven by the COVID-19 pandemic led to the group whacking up the impairment charges for bad loans to £4.8bn from £1.9bn the year before.

That put a dent in the group’s profits, which fell 78% to £578mln but that did not stop the company from resuming dividend payments, albeit with a level of prudence that might even have surprised the baking watchdog, the Prudential Regulation Authority.

The FTSE 100 bank said it will pay the equivalent of 5p per share comprising a 1p dividend with the rest made up by a £700mln share buyback.

Shareholders evidently took the “show me the money” viewpoint as the shares were off 3.8% at 148.54p in lunchtime trading.

The share buyback programme will at least buff up the earnings per share, which may or may not help Staley hit bonus-triggering targets. The Barclays boss had to swallow a £1.9mln reduction in his annual remuneration in 2020, which fell to £4mln, including an annual bonus worth £843,000, down from £1.7mln the year before.

Staley donated £392,000 of his income last year to the bank’s COVID-19 Community Aid Package.

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