Barclays builds up Asia business, sees growth in India and Australia

FILE PHOTO: A branch of Barclays Bank is seen, in London·Reuters
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By Anshuman Daga and Yantoultra Ngui

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Barclays Plc, which recently made big investments in India and Australia and set up a Taiwan subsidiary in July, is evaluating entering new markets but is currently focused on building up its franchises, its top regional executive said.

The British lender has been re-building its Asian business after a global restructuring in 2016, which took a heavy toll on its operations in the region, leading to job cuts, exits from many markets and the shutdown of its Asian cash-equities unit.

"For now, we have our hands full. The macroeconomic environment is also not one that really favours aggressive investment at this point in time," Jaideep Khanna, who heads Barclays' Asia Pacific business told Reuters in an interview.

"Are we done with investing and building a platform? Absolutely not. So what compelled us to go into Australia and Taiwan may in the future require us to go into new markets, but I don't see that happening in 2023," Khanna said.

The bank mainly caters to corporate and institutional clients in Asia and has hired about a dozen senior executives over the past two years to beef up its investment bank, markets unit and private banking business.

"The firm's position is that Asia presents an opportunity. We, as a business within the Barclays framework, are accretive to the firm and have delivered over the last three years," said Mumbai-based Khanna, who is also Barclays' India CEO.

While Barclays' corporate and investment bank was the smallest in Asia among 12 global banks in the six months to June, it showed the biggest revenue jump of 28%, Barclays said, citing data from industry tracker Coalition Greenwich.

Khanna, in Singapore for Barclays' flagship Asian forum, sees scope for the bank to expand further in Australia and India, powered by its recent investments and a relatively robust outlook for dealmaking in these countries.

"India has been for the region and for Barclays in the region, very strong," he said, highlighting the bank's record investment banking business in the country.


Khanna said M&A transactions in India might slow for some quarters before rebounding, supported by conglomerates' expansion plans, the government's infrastructure push and activity from buyout firms.

"There is confidence in the India opportunity," he added.

India's economy grew 13.5% in April-June, its fastest pace in a year.

This year, Barclays was among the three lead underwriters for Indian conglomerate Adani Group's multi-billion dollar deal to buy Holcim's cement businesses.

Khanna, the only regional CEO of a global bank to be based in India, took the role in 2017 after joining Barclays in 2001.

Last year, Barclays said it was investing more than $400 million in its Indian unit. The country is also home to Barclays' global services centre, where it employs more than 21,000 - its second-largest number of staff outside of Britain.

In Australia, Khanna said Barclays would deepen its involvement with investment banking boutique firm Barrenjoey Capital Partners in which it nearly doubled its stake to 18.2% this year.

"Very clearly, there's more to be done as they build out the fixed income business, there's greater opportunity for us on the equity business as the cross-border markets come back."

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga and Yantoultra Ngui; Editing by Himani Sarkar)