Banks chiefs cheer a better start to 2012

SENIOR executives at Barclays and HSBC signalled a strong start to the year yesterday while shares in Royal Bank of Scotland jumped on hopes of investment from the Abu Dhabi ruling family.

Bob Diamond, chief executive of Barclays, said investment banking volumes had shown a “pleasing increase” while the retail business had performed well.

“Two things have changed from six months ago. People are more confident about funding in Europe and people are pleasantly surprised about the robustness of the US economy, especially around the labour market and consumer spending,” Diamond said after speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference yesterday.

“We’re not overly optimistic, as there are still political and economic headwinds out there. But the first quarter has been pleasing,” he added.

His upbeat tone came on the day HSBC chairman Douglas Flint told investors the year had started well.

Yesterday RBS was the biggest climber on the FTSE 100 after it emerged Middle Eastern dealmaker Amanda Staveley is advising the rulers of Abu Dhabi on the possibility of taking a stake, which could come to more than a third. Sources have cautioned, however, that a deal is not imminent.

The bank’s shares closed up 3.32 per cent at 28.67p, well below the average price of 49.9p paid by the state in 2008.

UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank by assets, beat expectations to post a fourth quarter profit of €114m (£95m) despite a €70m writedown on Greek government bonds. It fell to a €9.2bn loss for the full year.