Reports in The Financial Times said Wednesday (May 23) that Barclays executives have already held “exploratory conversations” about a possible merger with Standard Chartered or another rival financial institution (FI). Activist investment fund Sherborne, which holds a 5.4 percent stake in Barclays, is said to be pressuring Barclays directors into a deal.
Barclays Chairman John McFarlane and Barclays International Head Sir Gerry Grimstone are reportedly in favor of a merger as well, the publication said, citing “people briefed” on the discussions Barclays management has held.
“We are entirely focused on executing our strategy and do not comment on this type of speculation,” a spokesperson for Standard Chartered told the publication. A spokesperson for Barclays declined to comment, the Financial Times added.
Following reports of a possible deal, shares in Barclays dropped 0.4 percent, reports in The Guardian said. Standard Chartered shares were up 2.2 percent.
Despite the Financial Times’ report, unnamed sources at Barclays denied the story.
The Guardian noted that Barclays’ chief executive was recently fined by U.K. officials for reportedly trying to reveal a whistleblower, while the bank was also hit with penalties from the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority.
Last month, Barclays announced the creation of a venture capital-type unit, Barclays UK Ventures, in an effort to promote FinTech innovation and investment for the FI. The unit is led by former Barclays group strategy head Ben Davey.
“The way we will work as a team will look and feel very much like a startup or scale-up operation,” Davey said in a statement to Reuters at the time.
He told The Financial Times in a separate interview that the unit would look to add billions of dollars in new revenue for Barclays as the bank explores innovative technologies for the financial services space, including artificial intelligence.