Barclays on hunt to buy US banks

BARCLAYS is seeking to buy a large US retail bank in a bid to bolster its high street presence in the US, bringing it in line with the booming performance of its investment banking division Barclays Capital.

Antony Jenkins, chief executive of global retail banking, is heading up an internal team charged with building on last year’s high profile deal to buy the North American operations of Lehman Brothers after the bank collapsed in 2008.

Sources close to the bank said yesterday that Barclays was on the lookout for attractive opportunities after its strong full-year results last month, when pre-tax profits surged 92 per cent to £11.6bn. But they stressed M&A is not a key driver of the bank’s growth strategy and no firm acquisition targets have yet been identified.

Possible targets identified by analysts are Atlanta-based lender SunTrust, which has an estimated $120bn of deposits, Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp, which has around $82bn in deposits and Dallas-based Comerica, which has around $39bn in deposits.

The bank is also keeping an open mind to the possibility of beefing up its retail business in western Europe, which would add to recent purchases such as Citigroup’s credit-card portfolios in Portugal and Italy.

Barclays’ decision to seek fresh deposits comes ahead of forthcoming regulatory changes requiring tougher capital requirements. US President Obama has proposed charging banks a levy based on their holdings of liabilities other than deposits. Meanwhile, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, is set to force lenders to hold more and better-quality assets as a cushion against short-term liquidity needs.

Credit Suisse warned yesterday that Barclays’ growth prospects could be limited if it doesn’t acquire more deposits.