Company Of The Week

THE fallout from the turmoil in the world's financial markets came closer to home last week. Shares in Barclays, Britain's third-largest bank fell 12 per cent to 1,002 after it announced that it is one of the banks taking part in a $3.5bn loan arranged by the U.S. Federal Reserve to rescue Long-Term Capital Management LP, a US hedge fund that came close to collapsing last week.

Although Barclays said it does not expect a negative impact on its own profit and loss account as a result, investor confidence was undermined after UBS, Europe's largest bank, said it will report a third-quarter loss as high as $717m. The Swiss bank will write off SFr 950m because of its involvement with the hedge fund.

The UK Financial Service Authority will quiz British banks about their exposure to the $4bn losses incurred by fund. This follows on news earlier this month that Barclays Capital will take a pounds 250m loss on Russian loans and securities.

Also last week, Barclaycard, the bank's credit card business, said it will cut 1,100 jobs, about a quarter of its staff, and increase spending on technology by pounds 30m to retain its UK market leadership. While Barclaycard still dominates the British credit card business, other banks and international credit card providers such as MBNA and RBS Advanta are making inroads into the business by offering cheaper rates and consumers are becoming more sensitive to the high rates of interest on credit card borrowing.

"Barclaycard is clearly under a lot of pressure and they've had to react to defend their leadership position,'" said John Paul Crutchley, banking analyst at Credit Lyonnais Securities.

Barclaycard contributed about 12.5 per cent of Barclays first half profit even though it fell 11 per cent to pounds 253m from a year earlier.