Belfast Telegraph

Barclays 'months away' from completing overhaul as profits surge to £3.2bn

Banking giant Barclays has said it is "just months away" from completing a swingeing overhaul as it revealed profits nearly trebled in 2016.

The lender saw group pre-tax profits surge to £3.2 billion, up from £1.1 billion a year earlier, thanks to a boost from its investment banking arm, as well as lower fines and mis-selling charges.

Chief executive Jes Staley, who has been offloading unwanted businesses to focus on UK and US operations, said the group had "accomplished a lot in a year".

He added: "We are now just months away from completing the restructuring of Barclays, and I am more optimistic than ever for our p rospects in 2017 and beyond."

Shares rose as much as 4% after the profit cheer and as Barclays said its restructuring was ahead of plan.

It now plans to close its so-called non-core bank on June 30, six months earlier than expected.

But Barclays chairman John McFarlane warned "significant challenges remain" as Barclays continues to fight US authorities over allegations over its part in a mortgage bond mis-selling scandal.

It is also being investigated on this side of the Atlantic by the Serious Fraud Office into the way it raised funds at the height of the financial crisis.

In its annual report published alongside the results, the bank revealed Mr Staley was awarded a £4.23 million pay package for 2016 - his first full year in charge.

This included a £1.2 million salary, £1.32 million annual bonus and £1.15 million in role-based pay, which was introduced to sidestep the EU bonus cap.

The bank said Mr Staley - who joined the bank in December 2015 - has also been awarded a further potential £2.82 million of deferred shares under a long-term incentive plan.

Its annual report showed that 364 employees earned more than £1 million last year, while 11 took home pay deals worth more than £5 million.

The bank's total bonus pool edged down to £1.53 billion from £1.54 billion in 2015.

Earnings were helped by its investment banking operations, which saw profits rise 14% t o £2.65 billion thanks to buoyant bond trading and foreign exchange rates.

Its retail bank also performed well as it was helped by sharply lower payment protection insurance (PPI) costs, with pre-tax profits in the UK division rising by £1.15 billion to £1.74 billion.

Its PPI bill fell to £1 billion in 2016 against £2.8 billion the previous year.

Mr Staley has been leading a widespread restructuring for the past year, offloading businesses from France to Egypt and moving to sell off its 62% stake in Barclays Africa.

He said on a bottom line basis, it was the "first year in the last four that the bank has actually earned money".

The group said it would "lighten" a hiring freeze put in place last year, which contributed to a 15,000 cut in the workforce.

Mr Staley reiterated the group had no plans to move staff to Europe as a result of Brexit and said it would be able to use its bases in Germany and Ireland once the UK pulls out of the EU.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said the results were better than expected, but cautioned over a "sting in the tail" ahead of the outcome of its battle with US authorities.