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Analysis-Barclays maps uncertain route to a simpler, stronger future

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Analysis-Barclays maps uncertain route to a simpler, stronger future
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A branch of Barclays Bank is seen, in London, Britain, February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

By Sinead Cruise, Lawrence White and Iain Withers

LONDON (Reuters) – Barclays, unveiling its biggest revamp since 2016, sought to appease investors seeking a clearer route to less volatile returns.

Yet the British lender’s plan to dedicate fewer financial resources to its investment bank is at odds with ambitions to expand in some of the unit’s higher-risk businesses, investors said.

Barclays has historically devoted much of its capital to investment banking, roiling more conservative shareholders who say other businesses posting more reliable profits have been under-invested as a result.

The bank will continue to allocate the lion’s share of its firepower to investment banking, and while a bigger push into domestic lending is broadly welcomed, some analysts and investors are unconvinced the bank can grow market share enough to meet its lofty revenue goals, against strong competition and a skittish UK economy.

Barclays’ long-awaited strategic update presented on Tuesday will have the bank return at least 10 billion pounds ($12.66 billion) to investors and reorganize into five units from the current three business lines, a move it said would create a simpler and better balanced bank.

This so-called “re-segmentation” aims to give investors greater transparency of performance in each division, unlike the previous structure which reported corporate lending and investment banking revenues together, the bank said.

In a key part of the overhaul, Barclays will reduce the share of risk-weighted assets (RWA) devoted to its investment bank to around 50% by 2026 from about 63%.

In turn, the bank plans to deploy around 30 billion pounds more to its UK consumer, corporate lending and private banking arms that generate higher returns.

“Today’s announcement from Barclays is welcome as far as it goes,” said Jeremy Hosking, founder and portfolio manager at Hosking Partners.

“But shareholders are still waiting for a diagnosis of the 15-year share price undervaluation of the bank, in particular as to whether it is cyclical or structural.”

Barclays shares rose as much as 9.4% on Tuesday and closed up 8.6% – their biggest daily gain since November 2020. In the last 12 months, they have lost over 7%, compared with a 4.2% rise in a key regional banking index

The average returns on tangible equity (RoTE) in the businesses the bank has pledged to invest in ranged from 18% to 31% in the two years to end-2023, compared with a more modest 10% at the investment bank, company figures show.

By reallocating its capital, Barclays says revenue will grow to around 30 billion by 2026 from 25.4 billion pounds in 2023.

Scepticism abounds. Many analysts and commentators said the rejig did not reflect a “de-risking” of the investment bank but rather an ambition to grow other units faster to reduce the investment bank’s outsized influence on group profit.

And with such strong competition posed by NatWest Group in British small business lending, Lloyds Banking Group (LON:) in mortgages and HSBC in corporate lending, Barclays’ big UK bet is not guaranteed to succeed.

STANDING STILL

What is more, the capital underpinning Barclays’ investment bank will still far exceed that deployed by rivals, such as BNP Paribas (OTC:) and UBS in their investment banks. Both lenders boast healthier valuations than Barclays and similarly handsome shareholder payout plans.

Within the investment bank, Barclays intends to further grow its financing business, Chief Executive C.S. Venkatakrishnan told investors on Tuesday, referring to the lucrative but potentially risky practice of lending money to large institutional clients against stocks or bonds as collateral.

Barclays has invested heavily in the business, growing revenues from 1.8 billion pounds at an undisclosed point to 2.9 billion in 2023, he said.

Analysts at Citi estimate the investment bank is expected to account for 2.7 billion pounds of the targeted 4.6 billion-pound increase in group revenues by 2026, a goal they describe as “highly ambitious”.

Those revenue goals, they say, rely on a 900 million pound bounce in the industry’s overall fee pool over the period and 1.2 billion pounds of growth in equity capital markets and advisory fees as well as additional sales to existing clients.

Other investors and analysts voiced doubts whether the plan will offer as much reassurance as executives hope.

“The buybacks will help, but the second part of the picture is growing revenue,” Sajeer Ahmed, portfolio manager at Aegon (NYSE:) Asset Management, told Reuters.

“Fund managers will treat this part of the investment case with scepticism. In particular, because it involves growing the investment bank.”

Growth will require a breakthrough in select segments, namely the buying and selling of European interest-rate products, equity derivatives and securitisation where Barclays is currently ranked outside the sector’s top five players.

Rupak Ghose, a corporate strategist and financial markets analyst, said the strategic objectives outlined by Barclays were unlikely to bolster the bank’s shares over the long term.

“This is a big return of capital but I fear a dead cat bounce,” he said.

($1 = 0.7897 pounds)

Stock Markets

US Supreme Court to hear challenge to Biden’s ‘ghost guns’ curbs

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By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide the legality of a federal regulation aimed at reining in homemade “ghost guns” as President Joe Biden’s administration combats the increasing use of these largely untraceable weapons in crimes nationwide.

The justices took up the administration’s appeal of a lower court’s decision finding that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) exceeded its authority in issuing the 2022 rule targeting parts and kits for ghost guns, which can be assembled at home in minutes.

The case will be heard during the Supreme Court’s next term, which begins in October.

The ATF rule targeted the rapid proliferation of privately made ghost guns bought online without federal requirements such as serial numbers or a background check for buyers – features that make them especially attractive to criminals and others barred from lawfully purchasing firearms, including minors.

The regulation expanded the definition of a firearm under a 1968 federal law called Gun Control Act to include parts and kits that may be readily turned into a gun. It required serial numbers and mandated that manufacturers and sellers be licensed. Sellers under the rule also must run background checks on purchasers prior to a sale.

Plaintiffs including the parts manufacturers, various gun owners and two gun rights groups – the Firearms Policy Coalition and Second Amendment Foundation – sued to block the rule in federal court in Texas.

Brandon Combs, founder of the Firearms Policy Coalition, praised the court’s decision to hear the case, denouncing the ATF’s “unconstitutional and abusive” rule.

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Eric Tirschwell, executive director of the gun safety legal group Everytown Law, urged the justices to uphold the rule “confirming that ghost guns are to be treated like the deadly firearms they are. These weapons have exacerbated our nation’s gun violence epidemic.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

HARD TO TRACE

According to the administration, police departments nationwide have confronted “an explosion of crimes involving ghost guns,” now recovering tens of thousands of the weapons every year.

Yet ghost guns are almost impossible to trace. The ATF successfully traced to unlicensed purchasers less than 1% of unserialized firearms recovered from crime scenes between 2016 and 2021, court papers showed.

The rule imposes on the sale of parts and kits the same conditions that already govern firearms manufacturers and dealers in millions of other transactions every year, according to the administration.

Even though the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in November sided with the plaintiffs, it remains in effect due to actions taken by the Supreme Court.

The justices twice last year acted against orders issued by Fort Worth, Texas-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in favor of the plaintiffs. In August, they halted his ruling to block the regulation pending further litigation. In October, they set aside his injunction that would have let two manufacturers continue selling their ghost gun products.

O’Connor issued a 2023 ruling invalidating the rule, finding that the administration exceeded its authority under the Gun Control Act. The congressional definition of a firearm “does not cover weapon parts, or aggregations of weapon parts, regardless of whether the parts may be readily assembled into something that may fire a projectile,” the judge concluded.

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The 5th Circuit upheld O’Connor’s decision faulting the ATF, saying the agency impermissibly rewrote the firearms law while attempting to “take on the mantle of Congress to ‘do something’ with respect to gun control. But it is not the province of an executive agency to write laws for our nation.”

The plaintiffs have portrayed the policy as a threat to the long history of legal private gunsmithing in the United States. Unlike some other gun-related cases, this one goes not center on the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”

The United States, with the world’s highest gun ownership rate, remains a nation deeply divided over how to address firearms violence including frequent mass shootings.

In three major rulings since 2008, the Supreme Court has widened gun rights, including a 2022 decision that declared for the first time that the U.S. Constitution protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.

In another gun-related case, the court on Feb. 28 heard arguments over the legality of a federal ban on “bump stocks” – devices that enable semiautomatic weapons to fire rapidly like machine guns. A ruling in that case is expected by the end of June.

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IBM stock price target raised on recent sale of its weather business

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On Monday, UBS made an adjustment to the stock price target of IBM (NYSE:), increasing it to $130.00 from the previous $125.00, while keeping a Sell rating on the stock. The adjustment follows IBM’s recent sale of its Weather business and a revision of the company’s reportable segment data for calendar years 2022 and 2023.

The revisions to IBM’s segment reporting have led UBS to alter its forecasts for the company’s revenue growth and profit margins. Specifically, the forecast for IBM’s Software revenue growth in calendar year 2024 has been raised to 5.7% from 5.2%. This update is based on an estimated 12.5% decline in Weather revenue in calendar year 2023, along with a 5% decrease in “Security Services” revenue.

Conversely, UBS has revised its growth forecast for IBM’s Consulting revenue in calendar year 2024 down to 4.6% from the previously estimated 5.1%. This change reflects the inclusion of Security Services in the segment.

Moreover, the removal of stock-compensation and interest expenses from the segments has resulted in an increase in the restated Software pre-tax income (PTI) margins for calendar year 2023, rising by 500 basis points to 30% from the previously reported 25%.

For the first quarter of 2023, the restated Software PTI margins are reported at 24.7%, which is 500 basis points higher than the previously reported 19.7%. Similarly, the restated Consulting PTI margins for the same period are now 8.2%, up from the 7.7% margin that was reported earlier. These revised figures reflect the mechanical changes in segment reporting and do not impact IBM’s historical consolidated results.

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InvestingPro Insights

In light of UBS’s recent adjustments to IBM’s price target and segment reporting, it is worth considering additional insights from InvestingPro. IBM has displayed a commendable track record of raising its dividend for 28 consecutive years, which may interest income-focused investors.

Moreover, the stock has shown low price volatility, a characteristic that could appeal to those looking for stable investment options. With a market capitalization of $166.46 billion and a P/E ratio of 22.02, IBM stands as a significant player in the IT Services industry, underscored by a revenue growth of 2.2% for the last twelve months as of Q1 2023.

InvestingPro Tips further reveal that IBM has maintained dividend payments for an impressive 54 consecutive years and has been profitable over the last year. The company is also anticipated to be profitable this year, according to analysts. For investors seeking more detailed analysis, there are additional InvestingPro Tips available for IBM, which you can explore with a subscription. Use the coupon code PRONEWS24 to get an extra 10% off a yearly or biyearly Pro and Pro+ subscription. This could provide a deeper understanding of IBM’s financial health and market position, especially pertinent after the company’s recent business sale and segment reporting revisions.

This article was generated with the support of AI and reviewed by an editor. For more information see our T&C.

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Blinken says genocide in Xinjiang is ongoing in report ahead of China visit

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By Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Beijing is continuing to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in its western Xinjiang province, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a report published on Monday, ahead of his planned visit to China this week.

The State Department’s annual human rights report, which documents abuses recorded all over the world during the previous calendar year, repeated language from previous years on the treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang, but the publication raises the issue ahead of delicate talks, including on the war in Ukraine and global trade, between the top U.S. diplomat and Chinese counterparts.

In a preface, Blinken said the report “documents ongoing grave human rights abuses in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).”

“For example, in Xinjiang, the PRC continues to carry out genocide, crimes against humanity, forced labor, and other human rights violations against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups,” Blinken said in the preface.

The section of Monday’s report on China details the detention of more than one million people in camps and prisons and the use of re-education camps in Xinjiang, among other abuses committed against the broader Chinese population.

China has vigorously denied abuses in Xinjiang and says it established “vocational training centers” to curb terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism.

Blinken when he took office in 2021 endorsed a determination by his predecessor that China’s actions amounted to genocide, and he has raised the issue in meetings with Chinese officials.

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The annual human rights report has in recent years echoed that position and said the genocide is ongoing, but Xinjiang has featured less prominently in direct contacts between U.S. and Chinese officials.

A senior State Department official briefing reporters on Friday on Blinken’s trip said human rights would be among the issues raised by Blinken with Chinese officials, but did not mention the situation in Xinjiang.

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