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    AV.   GB0002162385

AVIVA PLC

(AV.)
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Activist Bramson abandons tussle with Barclays, selling stake

05/07/2021 | 05:48am EDT
FILE PHOTO: A Barclays bank building is seen at Canary Wharf in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Activist investor Edward Bramson has sold his firm's 6% stake in Barclays, disbanding a three-year effort to overhaul the British bank and ending a stand-off with chief executive Jes Staley.

Bramson's fund, Sherborne Investors, had pressured Staley since 2018 to scale back investment banking and demanded his removal over his links to U.S. financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, but Bramson struggled to gain much traction.

The value of the Sherborne vehicle dedicated to the Barclays stake has fallen by around 150 million pounds ($209 million) compared to the 700 million pounds it raised when it was formed in 2017.

The fund, in which UK asset managers Aviva and Schroders have stakes, said it had identified another company to invest in and has begun building a position in that firm, which it did not name.

Barclays declined to comment.

"Business is not a science and so people of goodwill may, therefore, sometimes differ. In that spirit, Sherborne Investors expresses its most sincere wish that things will turn out well for Barclays, its employees, and its investors," Sherborne Investors Management said in a statement.

One top 20 investor in Barclays, who declined to be named, said a recent rally in Barclays' shares on investor bets of a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic had provided Bramson with an exit route and predicted he would opt for a less complex next target.

Barclays shares have fallen roughly 15% since Sherbone first declared its stake in Barclays in March 2018.

The stock was up 2% on Friday.

'THE WAR IS OVER'

When Sherborne first invested, Barclays had been under pressure to bolster profits after Staley's aggressive push in investment banking since he joined in 2015 failed to significantly lift returns.

Barclays was Bramson's largest target to date. He engineered turnarounds at smaller firms including British private equity firm Electra after forcing his way onto the board. But a bid by Bramson for a board seat at Barclays was emphatically rejected by shareholders in 2019.

A strong showing by the investment bank helped it weather the COVID-19 pandemic, bolstering Staley's argument that it needed a diversified business to cope in a recession.

"The war is over," wrote Ian Gordon, a banking analyst at Investec.

"We sense that investor appetite for a further round of heavy restructuring charges to execute such a repositioning of the group was limited".

Bramson also urged Barclays' board to replace Staley after the UK regulator said it was examining his links with Jeffrey Epstein, but failed to win support.

Staley has said he regrets having a professional relationship with Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

Sherborne initially invested 580 million pounds in Barclays' shares and derivatives but the investment did little to lift its fortunes.

The net asset value of the Sherborne fund is currently 79 pence per share, it said, compared to 99 pence in December 2017 before it made the Barclays investment.

(Reporting By John O'Donnell in Frankfurt and Iain Withers and Carolyn Cohn in London; editing by Rachel Armstrong and Elaine Hardcastle)

By John O'Donnell, Iain Withers and Carolyn Cohn


© Reuters 2021
Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
AVIVA PLC 0.05% 414.9 Delayed Quote.27.52%
BARCLAYS PLC 0.25% 174.79 Delayed Quote.18.90%
ELECTRA LIMITED 0.60% 185610 Delayed Quote.5.70%
INVESTEC GROUP 1.28% 56.02 End-of-day quote.52.89%
SCHRODERS PLC 0.59% 3554 Delayed Quote.5.87%
SHERBORNE INVESTORS (GUERNSEY) C LIMITED 1.66% 61.25 Delayed Quote.44.48%
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Financials
Sales 2021 48 591 M 67 600 M 67 600 M
Net income 2021 2 126 M 2 958 M 2 958 M
Net Debt 2021 5 426 M 7 549 M 7 549 M
P/E ratio 2021 7,65x
Yield 2021 5,50%
Capitalization 16 288 M 22 643 M 22 659 M
EV / Sales 2021 0,45x
Capi. / Sales 2022 0,31x
Nbr of Employees 28 596
Free-Float 97,1%
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Number of Analysts 21
Last Close Price 414,70 GBX
Average target price 451,60 GBX
Spread / Average Target 8,90%
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Managers and Directors
Amanda Blanc Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director
Jason Michael Windsor Chief Financial Officer & Director
Mark George Culmer Non-Executive Chairman
Nitinbhai Babubhai Maganbhai Amin Chief Operating Officer
Michael Mire Independent Non-Executive Director
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