Interactive Investor

Barclays: bank narrowly beats Q3 profit forecasts

The high street lender is known for its strength in depth, but its NIM outlook disappoints, writes head of markets Richard Hunter.

24th October 2023 08:48

by Richard Hunter from interactive investor

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Barclays (LSE:BARC) is known for its strength in depth, with the diversity of its business model allowing the bank to pull different levers as the economic backdrop changes.

The Corporate and Investment Bank (CIB), which accounts for around half of total group revenue, saw a dip of 6% in income to £3.1 billion, in line with expectations. Lower client activity and investment fees, the latter of which reflects a reduced fee banking pool as experienced by some of the bank’s US counterparts, dragged on numbers although CIB managed a Return on Tangible Equity (ROTE) of 11.5%.

On the other hand, the Consumer, Cards and Payments (CC&P) unit posted income growth of 9%, driven largely by higher balances on US credit cards. However, this rise in effectively unsecured lending has inevitably led to a small and containable increase in credit defaults, of which the bank is acutely aware. It has therefore taken the decision to increase the overall level of the impairment charge to £1.3 billion for the year, which is an additional £400 million provision from the level posted at the half-year results.

Barclays UK also has some issues to consider, with higher interest rates leading to higher savings rates. As such, there has been some customer migration away from the bank as higher yields are sought elsewhere, while lower deposit volumes and mortgage margin pressure add to a difficult mix. As such, the bank has reduced its Net Interest Margin (NIM) outlook to between 3.05% and 3.1%, down from a previously guided 3.2% and a 3.22% performance in the second quarter.

Despite these headwinds, group income rose by 5% in the quarter to £6.3 billion, in line with estimates and ahead of a corresponding number of £5.95 billion last year. Pre-tax profit, although down by 4% to £1.9 billion, was ahead of market expectations of £1.8 billion and was largely similar to the previous period. The operating expenses number also helped the overall picture, dropping by 4% and was driven by lower litigation costs for the quarter (£32 million versus £1.52 billion last year) and ongoing efficiency savings.

The key metrics also remain in strong shape, with the capital cushion, or CET1 ratio, holding firm at 14% and comfortably in excess of regulatory requirements. The Liquidity Coverage Ratio remains high at 159%, while a cost/income ratio of 63% is roughly in line with the group’s targets. The group ROTE of 11% (and 12.5% in the cumulative year to date) reduced slightly, although there was a noticeable boost from Barclays UK, which reported a number of 21% for the third quarter.

The strength of the US dollar versus sterling has worked for and against the bank. On the one hand, it has had a beneficial impact when translating income and profit back to sterling, but it also works against the group in terms of operating expenses and impairment charges. In terms of shareholder returns, it had largely been expected that there would not be any further announcements at this stage, although the group confirmed the completion of the £750 million share buyback programme. In the meantime, a dividend yield of 5.4% is attractive enough to assuage the doubts of many income-seeking investors.

As ever, Barclays is spinning many plates and largely reaping the reward of its geographical and business diversity. The lower NIM guidance in particular has been received extremely poorly by investors, whereas the drop in CIB income was largely expected given the recent experience of US banks. The generally dour economic backdrop has dragged on the shares, which declined by 1% over the last year even prior to today’s weak opening, as compared to a gain of 5% for the wider FTSE 100. Despite this latest wobble, the group remains well-regarded for the longer term, with the market consensus of the shares as a buy reflecting a certain amount of insurance which the business model brings.

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