Belfast Telegraph

Barclays avoids revolt as shareholders back chief executive's salary

Banking giant Barclays avoided a revolt over executive pay after shareholders overwhelmingly backed chief executive Jes Staley's salary at its annual general meeting.

Shareholders voted more than 93% in favour of the company's remuneration for 2015, which included a pay package for Mr Staley of a £1.2 million salary, £1.15 million in role-based pay, annual bonuses worth a potential 80% of his salary and long-term share awards worth a possible £1.44 million.

The Barclays' board was told by one investor at the AGM that remuneration had got "wildly out of kilter" and "it would give shareholders confidence if the bank took the lead and did something about it".

Barclays' chairman John McFarlane said: "We pay the units that perform and we don't pay the units that don't perform and our bonuses are half what they used to be and have come down over the last 12 months."

The comments over executive pay came after Barclays took steps to assuage investor concern over the performance of its investment bank, its decision to cut the dividend and the sell-down of its African banking arm.

Mr McFarlane said the bank was working towards "achieving a significantly improved 2017 financial outcome, and ultimately a clean and prosperous year in 2018".

He thanked shareholders for their "incredible patience" and said he appreciated their concerns after seeing its stock slump by a third in the last six months, while dividend payouts will also be more than halved over the next two years.

He said "We do believe that the shareholder value we can create by accelerating the closure of non-core will significantly exceed the cost to shareholders of the dividend reduction."

Updating on the bank's turnaround plan, it revealed today that it had sold its Barclaycard credit card operations in Spain and Portugal to Spanish online bank Bancopopular-e.

It added that the creation of the ring-fenced retail bank would cost £1 billion, while the sell down of Barclays Africa Group and the closure of the non-core business would see staff numbers shrink by 50,000 to 80,000 worldwide.

Mr McFarlane added that the investment bank "raised questions" as Barclays holds a "substantial position" in a sector "facing difficult times".

"We have been focused on ensuring the scale of the business is appropriate.

"We have therefore reduced selectively our investment to a smaller, lower-risk, more focused proposition, and at a level where we believe it can be sustainable and produce acceptable returns, even in this environment."

Barclays revealed in its first quarter results announced on Wednesday that profits tumbled after it was hit by tough trading in its investment banking arm.

The group posted first quarter pre-tax profits of £793 million, down from £1.1 billion a year earlier, as underlying profits in its corporate and investment banking business dropped 31%.

Mr Staley said the decision to sell down the African business was a "regret" but "necessary".

He said: "We are faced with a situation where we shoulder 100% of the financial burden - including significantly increased capital and regulatory requirements over the past few years - but where we only receive 62% of the benefits.

"We therefore need to make the hard choice to sell down our stake, and thereby release the benefits to the wider group, such as freeing up capital and reducing our UK bank levy payments."

Speaking about Britain's referendum on Europe, the bank reaffirmed its position that it will be more "favourable" if the UK remained in the EU.

Blue-chip giants Anglo American and BP faced investor protest at their AGMs earlier this month, with shareholders voting to reject BP's remuneration report for the last year, which included a pay deal of 19.6 million dollars (£13.8 million) for chief executive Bob Dudley.