Outlook: Barclays/B&C

Click to follow
IS BARCLAYS just accident prone, or is there something seriously wrong? Just as things were beginning to settle after Martin Taylor's sensational departure as chief executive, up pops another nasty surprise - an unprovided- for liability in respect of the collapse of British & Commonwealth.

This went entirely unmentioned at the time of Mr Taylor's walkout, even though the out-of-court settlement announced yesterday was already under active negotiation by the Centre for Dispute Resolution. The pounds 1.9bn pre- tax profit the bank then said it expected to make for last calendar year took no account of this new liability.

We shouldn't perhaps be too hard on Barclays for holding back. The B&C collapse was an awfully long time ago, and the deal that caused it, the acquisition of the semi-fraudulent Atlantic Computers, even longer. What's more, it was well known that legal proceedings against Barclays in connection with this acquisition were still outstanding.

And in any case, companies tend as a matter of course not to provide for legal cases against them, since to do so might be seen as a partial admission of liability. All the same, this is an alarmingly large sum of money unexpectedly to kiss goodbye to, even if going to court might have been to risk more. Investors can only pray that it marks the final piece of bad news to come crawling out of the woodwork.