(Bloomberg) -- Barclays Plc’s activist investor Edward Bramson is stepping up a campaign to shrink the trading business by drumming up support among the British lender’s non-executive directors, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Bramson, who has also been courting fellow shareholders in California, New York and London in recent weeks, has told some that he has the firepower to increase his stake of about 5 percent, the person said. With an investment of over 5 percent, he is able to call a general meeting of shareholders, although this is not the preferred route, according to the person.
The activist investor reiterated that he doesn’t want Barclays to pour more capital into the corporate and investment bank, which is the lowest return business at the lender, the person said.
The pursuit of Bramson’s current strategy may be a surprise to some after Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley reported a stellar third quarter at the investment bank, driven by strength in derivatives and equities. The bank also appointed Nigel Higgins, a high profile City rainmaker, to succeed Chairman John McFarlane. Higgins is seen as a likely supporter of Staley.
Bramson has been meeting some non-executive directors in the past months, the person said. Barclays has twelve non-executive directors excluding the Chairman.
Barclays and Bramson’s Sherborne Investors declined to comment.
The London-based bank’s strategy has been under greater scrutiny after Bramson emerged as one of the lender’s largest shareholders in March. In an interview after the third-quarter earnings at the end of October, Staley has said that Bramson still had to show his hand and that he was due to meet him “in the next couple of weeks.” This meeting has yet to take place, the person said.
The bank’s stock is down more than 20 percent since Staley took the helm of the lender in December 2015. The corporate and investment bank remains the lender’s worst performer with the consumer, card and payments arm producing far higher return on tangible equity.
Bramson is likely to also meet Higgins in the next few weeks, the person said.
Staley is a believer in investment banking after spending over three decades at JPMorgan Chase & Co., and has staked his reputation on boosting returns at the division. Bramson’s Sherborne Investors invested 580 million pounds in stock and other instruments of Barclays, and may raise or reduce its holding without further notice, it said in March. The bank’s shares are down about 19 percent since then.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stefania Spezzati in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ambereen Choudhury at email@example.com, Keith Campbell
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.