Barclays’ chair defends ‘unsatisfactory’ share price at testy AGM

Barclays’ chair Nigel Higgins defended the financial institution’s persistently poor inventory market efficiency at its annual assembly, telling disillusioned shareholders the board believed that boosting capital returns and avoiding a repeat of latest expensive scandals would enhance its valuation.

On Wednesday on the lender’s AGM in Westminster in London, Higgins acknowledged that the present share value represented a “clearly unsatisfactory 50 per cent low cost to our ebook worth”, however maintained the financial institution had the correct technique to succeed.

Barclays’ inventory has steadily declined because it launched into a drive to develop its funding financial institution underneath former chief government Jes Staley, a technique continued underneath his successor, CS Venkatakrishnan. Since December 2015, when Staley began on the financial institution, the shares have dropped 43 per cent from greater than £2 to £1.52, considerably underperforming Wall Road rivals.

“I wish to tackle the elephant within the room . . . It’s embarrassing to see Barclays hovering between 150p and 170p and in a downward decline on a regular basis,” stated one particular person investor. “I’m not going to harp on like a peasant wanting cash. However guarantees have been made to shareholders for many years now . . . For those who don’t tackle the dividend Barclays will all the time be a £1 to £2 share.”

“You’ve hit the nail on the top,” Higgins replied. “We’re very aware [the share price] has been disappointing for a lot of the previous decade . . . However we’re completely targeted on bettering the share value and capital returns.”

Higgins argued {that a} 27 per cent enhance in web revenue within the first quarter confirmed constructive momentum and that the financial institution had raised its dividend to 7.25p and acquired again £1bn of shares at a reduction final yr.

He added that it was “significantly vital given the shrinking European funding banking world, we should make sure that you, our shareholders correctly perceive how we as a enterprise earn a living and why our mannequin and technique is the correct one for the financial institution”.

One other small shareholder requested if the financial institution may enhance its valuation by transferring its domicile and itemizing to New York, following a wave of firms abandoning London after Brexit and due to extra onerous inventory market guidelines.

“It is a British financial institution, we’ve been right here for 300 years, and our goal is to take care of the valuation query in different methods,” Higgins stated, ruling it out.

For a lot of the remainder of the AGM, Higgins fielded a variety of questions from local weather activists criticising its insurance policies on fossil gasoline financing.

The beginning of the assembly was delayed by 25 minutes by chanting protesters. One group of ladies sang about ending fossil gasoline financing to the tune of the Spice Ladies’ 1998 hit, “Cease (Proper Now)”.

Others stood on their chairs periodically throughout the assembly, riffing on a soliloquy from Hamlet: “Don’t shuffle us off this mortal coil, Barclays preserve it within the soil”. An more and more annoyed Higgins replied, “we wish to shuffle you off out of right here . . . sufficient is sufficient”.

Greater than 30 safety employees patrolled the room, escorting or finishing up the handfuls of activists who disrupted the assembly. In typically tense exchanges between protesters and board members, one individual accused Higgins of “vanity and hubris” for his feedback.

Forward of the assembly, proxy advisers had criticised the board. Glass Lewis stated executives didn’t take sufficient of a success on pay after a buying and selling error led to the financial institution improperly promoting $17.7bn of structured monetary merchandise. That scandal resulted in additional than £700mn in settlement and compensation prices, denting annual revenue.

ISS stated shareholders ought to use the annual assembly to query the board over its assist of Staley, who administrators continued to again earlier than his resignation in November 2021 regardless of revelations about his shut friendship with deceased intercourse offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Staley resigned amid a UK regulatory probe into how he characterised his previous relationship with Epstein.

Nevertheless, the topic was not addressed by shareholders.

The outcomes of shareholder votes on resolutions and director re-elections might be launched in a while Wednesday.

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