Barclays’ (LON:BARC) executive chairman John McFarlane is set to step up his turnaround strategy, as he lines up the sale of the bank’s Portuguese retail and small business banking arm.
McFarlane took the helm at the British lender last month after ousting chief executive Antony Jenkins. Pledging to boost returns for investors, he outlined a plan to slim down in continental Europe, selling off or closing down retail and small business banking units in Portugal, Spain, Italy and France, and focusing on the more profitable credit cards and investment banking operations in the countries.
Barclays took a €500 million loss when it sold its Spanish retail, corporate banking and wealth management businesses last September. It has tried several times to pull out of France and Italy but struggled to find buyers. However, the bank is now set to sell its Portuguese unit to Spain’s Bankinter, The Sunday Times has revealed. The deal is expected to be sealed this week, fetching around €300 million -- less than the value of the assets, according to analysts.
Separately, The Sunday Times yesterday reported that Barclays would be the first UK high street bank to accept bitcoin later this year. According to the newspaper, the FTSE 100-listed lender has been conducting experiments into bitcoin in “labs” in London, and working with start-ups. It now plans to test the virtual currency, allowing people to make donations to charities in bitcoin.
Derek White, chief design and digital officer at Barclays, said, as quoted by the Sunday Times: “Barclays is enabling the bitcoin exchange to help charities accept bitcoin.” The bank plans to kick off the initiative in partnership with a bitcoin exchange platform by the end of the year.