(Bloomberg) -- Qatar’s wealth fund is offloading almost half of its shares in Barclays Plc, a surprise move that comes as the bank’s executives ready a strategic overhaul for early next year.
Qatar Holding LLC, which is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, is selling 361.7 million shares in the British firm, according to terms of the offering seen by Bloomberg News. The sale is expected to raise £510 million ($644 million).
The Middle East state invested about £4 billion in Barclays during a series of sales in the 2008 financial crisis, becoming one of its largest backers. It had a 5% stake at the end of 2022, according to a US regulatory filing in January. Monday’s accelerated bookbuild reflects about 45% of that position.
“The timing is slightly odd and it’s hardly a ringing endorsement ahead of the investor update,” said Adam Terelak, an analyst at Mediobanca.
A Barclays spokesperson declined to comment. A representative for the QIA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Barclays’s shares have fallen by a tenth this year, underperforming many of its peers, as executives work on ways to boost returns that are set to include job cuts. In the UK, the tailwind from higher interest rates is slowing while Barclays’ traders and investment bankers have struggled to keep pace with US peers.
The group comprises one of the UK’s largest retail banks as well as an international credit card business and a global investment bank.
But investors have been wary of its capital markets ambitions. It trades at a paltry price-to-book ratio of 0.39, lagging rivals.
Earlier this year, Chief Executive Officer C.S. Venkatakrishnan tapped Boston Consulting Group to do a wide-ranging review of the firm’s strategy with executives expected to unveil a series of more ambitious financial targets in February. A range of options are being considered, from expanding advisory business to acquiring a wealth manager, people familiar with the matter have said.
Read More: Barclays Bankers on Edge After Bosses Start Revamp Countdown
The shares are expected to price at 141 pence, representing a 1.4% discount to Monday’s close. The offering represents about 2.4% of Barclays’s outstanding shares, according to the terms.
While Qatar’s 2008 intervention helped the bank avoid a government bailout, the emergency fundraising has been a legal headache ever since.
Last year, the Financial Conduct Authority said it planned to fine Barclays £50 million for failing to disclose an agreement to pay advisory fees to Qatari investment vehicles during the fundraising efforts. The bank has said it plans to challenge the regulator’s proposal. Former executives at Barclays were cleared of fraud in connection with the transactions in 2020.
(Adds analyst reaction, expected pricing.)
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