Barclays boss forgoes bonus, Qatar deal probed

Updated 02 February 2013
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Barclays boss forgoes bonus, Qatar deal probed

LONDON: Barclays Chief Executive Antony Jenkins has opted not to take a bonus for 2012, saying he should “bear an appropriate degree of accountability” for the difficult year the British bank endured.
Jenkins is trying to restore Barclays’ reputation since the revelation of its role in a global interest rate rigging scandal led to a $450 million fine and the departure of his predecessor Bob Diamond.
Those efforts are unlikely to be a straight road. The Financial Times reported that British authorities are looking into an allegation that Barclays lent Qatar money to invest in it as part of a rescue fundraising at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.
UK rules forbid a public company from giving financial assistance in order to acquire its shares or those of a parent company.
A Barclays spokeswoman said: “Both the FSA and SFO investigations are ongoing and, as such, we are unable to comment further.”
The FSA, SFO and Qatar Holding declined to comment.
Jenkins, who became CEO in August, said he did not want to be considered for a bonus after a difficult year for the bank and its stakeholders.
“I think it only right that I bear an appropriate degree of accountability for those matters,” he said in a statement.
He said he was aware of considerable speculation about his bonus and wanted to avoid “further unnecessary public debate.” His annual salary as CEO is 1.1 million pounds and he could have received an annual bonus of up to 2.75 million.
The issue of pay at Barclays and other banks is set to flare again next week when Jenkins, Barclays Chairman David Walker and their counterparts at Lloyds and HSBC are quizzed on pay by UK lawmakers.
RBS CEO Stephen Hester said last June he would waive his bonus for 2012 following a computer systems failure which caused disruption to millions of its customers.
Qatar Holding, which according to the FT is not accused of any wrongdoing, invested 5.3 billion pounds ($ 8.4 billion) in Barclays in June and October 2008, helping it avoid a government bailout, unlike rivals Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and Serious Fraud Office (SFO) have been looking into the investment since July. Allegations of a loan to the Qataris are a new thread of the investigation, the FT said, citing two sources familiar with the situation.
The deal with Qatar was questioned from the outset. Shareholders were angry it was offered more attractive terms than existing investors. A sale of warrants in November left Qatar sitting on a gain of 1.7 billion pounds from its investment, according to Reuters estimates.
Qatar Holding, part of the Qatar Investment Authority, which was set up by the state in 2005 to diversify its investments away from oil and gas, is the bank’s biggest shareholder with a 6.7 percent stake.
Barclays said in August that Britain’s fraud prosecutors had launched a criminal probe into payments between the bank and Qatar, a month after revealing the FSA’s investigation into dealings between the two parties.
It said the FSA probe was into the bank and four current and former senior employees, including finance director Chris Lucas. Sources have said another is Roger Jenkins, the main architect of the Qatar fundraising who left Barclays in early 2009 and is now at Brazilian investment bank BTG Pactual.
Neither Lucas nor Jenkins immediately responded to requests for comment.
Barclays said in July when it first disclosed the investigation that it considered it had satisfied its disclosure obligations.


Costa Coffee to go solo pressed by investors

Updated 55 min 13 sec ago
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Costa Coffee to go solo pressed by investors

LONDON: Latte king Costa Coffee is to go it alone following pressure from activist shareholders on Whitbread, the global coffee chain’s parent company, a statement said Wednesday.
UK company Whitbread, which will hold onto hotel chain Premier Inn, said the spin-off is part of a restructuring drive that is set to be completed within two years.
“Given the progress Whitbread is making, we are confident that both Premier Inn and Costa will soon be businesses of sufficient strength, scale and capability to enable them to thrive as independent companies,” Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain said in the statement.
“The board, therefore, believes that it is in the best long-term interests of Whitbread’s many stakeholders to separate Premier Inn and Costa, via a demerger of Costa,” she added.
Analysts welcomed the move.
“A cleaner operation should enable greater operational focus and afford investors greater clarity on profit and cash generation,” said analyst Greg Johnson at Shore Capital.
Whitbread’s announcement comes after activist investor, US group Elliott last week became its biggest shareholder with a six percent interest.
“The question will of course arise over whether CEO Alison Brittain jumped or was pushed into this proposal by the arrival of two activist investors on the shareholder register,” said Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers.
Whitbread bought Costa in 1995 from founders Sergio and Bruno Costa and presently runs about 2,400 stores in the UK and some 1,400 around the world.
Its shops are popular with a wide array of coffee lovers, ranging from students in London, to journalists and Beirut, and tourists in Paris.
Premier Inn has 785 hotels in the UK plus some more in Germany and the Middle East.