British banking major Barclays, under pressure from activist investors, is considering a potential merger with rivals, including Standard Chartered, as part of wide-ranging contingency plans being weighed by senior board members, the Financial Times reported.
Chairman John McFarlane is at least "theoretically" keen on the idea of combining with Standard Chartered, and, according to the FT report, deputy chairman Gerry Grimstone has also been in favour of such a move.
Barclays has discussed various “hypothetical combinations” with other lenders, including Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse Group, and DBS Group Holdings, the newspaper reported citing two unidentified people close to the development.
Jes Staley, the former JPMorgan Chase & Co executive who leads Barclays, has come under immense pressure ever since Edward Bramson’s Sherborne Investors revealed its 5.2-per cent stake in March.
While Staley is betting on his reputation to boost returns and overhaul the investment bank operations, it is still by far Barclays’s worst-performing division after years of restructuring.
FT also cited a private conversation between a director at Barclays and Standard Chartered about the possible benefits of such a deal. However, no bid approach had been made, according to the FT report. There has also been no formal discussion of the potential combination on the Barclays board, the report said.
“We are entirely focused on executing our strategy, and do not comment on this type of speculation,” the report cited an emailed statement from Standard Chartered following the report.
A potential takeover of Standard Chartered would mark a sharp reversal of Barclays chief Jes Staley’s public strategy for the bank, which has sold down its holdings in Africa under his tenure.