Barclays Is Boosted by iShares Sell-Off Hopes

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Byline: HUGO DUNCAN

BARCLAYS shares rocketed today as it confirmed it was considering the sale of part of its fund management business, and talks continued with the Government about insuring its toxic assets.

The bank said it may sell its iShares division, part of Barclays Global Investors, and "has held discussions with a number of potentially interested parties".

It hopes it could get more than [pounds sterling]4 billion for the business, staving off the need to raise further cash from shareholders, foreign investors or the Government to bolster its balance sheet.

The shares rose 7.4p to 81.5p, giving the bank a market value of [pounds sterling]6.8 billion -- less than double the [pounds sterling]4 billion iShares could sell for. Barclays also said it continues to "perform well" and has had "a strong start to 2009".

The auction of iShares comes as Barclays chief executive John Varley decides whether or not to join the Government's asset protection scheme set up to insure billions of pounds of junk on banks' balance sheets.

Barclays confirmed it was in talks with the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority about the scheme but it wants to pay in cash rather than shares if it joins. Royal Bank of Scotland has already put [pounds sterling]325 billion of toxic assets into the scheme while Lloyds Banking Group has ring-fenced [pounds sterling]260 billion. As a result, the Government's stake could hit 95% at RBS and 77% in Lloyds -- something Varley is desperate to avoid at Barclays. …