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Acquisitions: Barclays on the prowl for retail in the US

UK firm considers FDIC route; foreign banks step up presence in US.

"Barclays has several avenues to enter the US market. The company will have to decide which route best fits its strategic intentions"

Tyler Hall, SNL Financial

Barclays is looking to expand its deposit base and is eyeing an acquisition of a retail bank in the US, as well as in western Europe, according to sources close to the bank. Given that US and global regulation seems to be raising onerous new capital requirements against riskier trading businesses, while pushing banks away from relying on wholesale funding, and incentivizing them to increase deposits, a potential retail acquisition makes sense.

Barclays grew its retail business rapidly through a series of smaller acquisitions between 2006 and 2009 under the leadership of former Citigroup banker Frits Seegers.

It seemed that the bank’s chief executive John Varley was keen for Seegers’ global retail and commercial banking division to at least keep pace with the growth of the investment bank, Barclays Capital, which provided a large share of the group’s earnings in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers’ acquisition.

Integration effects

Investment banking boomed last year as companies sought to recapitalize even as the real economy stalled and bad debts rose at the retail bank.

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