Barclays has unveiled a four-fold jump in first-half profits and resumed dividend payments as Britain barrels out of its worst recession in centuries.
Pre-tax profits at the bank soared to £5bn for the first six months of this year – four times higher than the same period in 2021 – following an improving economic outlook that has allowed it to release money set aside to cover a possible surge in toxic debts.
Barclays said it has freed up £742m of the £3.7bn it earmarked a year ago when banks put away billions of pounds to cover the cost of bad loans as Covid hammered the economy.
Earlier this year Barclays became the first UK bank to restart shareholder payouts after lenders were forced to halt dividends in 2020 following heavy pressure from the Bank of England.
It is now resuming the interim dividend for the first half at 2p per share , a higher level than analysts expected, and has unveiled another share buyback worth up to £500m.
The strong results come months after the bank finally saw off the threat posed by American corporate raider Ed Bramson, who ended his three-year battle against Barclays in May by selling his entire stake.
Mr Bramson, who runs Sherborne Investors, sold his 6pc holding following critcism from his own shareholders, who said they were losing patience with the activist’s campaign against the bank.
The investor wanted to shrink Barclays’ investment banking arm and potentially split it off – setting the stage for a clash with Jes Staley, the chief executive, who fiercely resisted his efforts.
Mr Staley told reporters that the bank had not been hugely impacted by the ‘pingdemic’ of Covid app notifications sweeping Britain, which has forced hundreds of thousands of people to self-isolate. Barclays has only had to temporarily close two of its 700 branches as due to potential exposure to the virus.
He hopes to stay in the top job for a “couple more years,” he added, following speculation last year that the bank was looking for successors.
Investment banking again proved to be the bright spot in Barclays’ results, with fees increasing a record 19pc year-on-year over the second quarter.
Shares rose 3.1pc to 174p in afternoon trading.