Barclays may be pushing its luck in US bid
Less than two years ago, everyone assumed Barclays would join Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group in taking a bailout from the Government.
Having avoided that fate, its recovery has been so strong City gossips now take seriously talk that Barclays is planning a major acquisition in the US retail banking sector. One can see the case it might make. There are a number of bailed-out US banks that might represent an attractive opportunity and the purchase of the US assets of Lehman Brothers now looks to have been a slam dunk.
A retail acquisition would be sensible diversification given the regulatory pressures Barclays Capital now faces.
Still, shareholders have every right to be nervous. Barclays will again have to address its capital funding in the years ahead. Tapping investors for acquisition cash could prove a big ask.
Moreover, British banks have almost universally fared poorly in the US retail market and even if Barclays were to end that, it would be exposed to the more aggressive elements of Obama's administration. Barclays is entitled to insist that, relatively speaking, it’s had a good crisis. It is worth remembering, however, the bank also got lucky when it lost out to Royal Bank of Scotland in the bidding war for ABN Amro. It's a little early to be thinking about pushing that luck any further.