Barrett to bow out at Barclays?

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August 29: Hi - hope you all had a good long weekend. We kick off the week with the news that Matt Barrett is apparently about to retire as chairman of Barclays. This would be good news.

Barclays is thrashing around in search of a strategy: a little investment in India here, a bit in South Africa there. At home Barclays is trying to make up for the disaster which was the Woolwich acquisition and for which Barrett, 61, and chief executive John Varley, are largely to blame. And it is not hard to see the potential for hugely destructive tension among the bank’s senior executives which would need firm refereeing.

As the former CEO and one of the main architects of much of this, Barrett is in no position to oversee a clarification of strategy or to keep the peace in the boardroom. The Times and Daily Mail this morning suggested that Marcus Agius, chairman of Lazard in London and former chairman of BAA, is most likely to be chosen for the job. He would bring clarity of thought and a no-nonsense management style which would enable him to impose discipline and rigour at Barclays. He could also be expected to cast a sceptical eye over the activities of Barclays Capital, which would be no bad thing.

Sir Nigel Rudd, the deputy chairman who has been on the board since 1996, was once considered a possible chairman but, as he is already chairman of Alliance Boots, the corporate governance police would take a dim view of this. And since he joined the board 10 years ago, the same people might not consider him sufficiently independent. The other name being suggested is Bob Steel, a former Goldman Sachs banker who joined the board last year. It’s hard to say what his chances are, however.

Yet more trouble for BP: the Wall Street Journal says the company is being investigated for possible manipulation of the crude oil and unleaded gasoline markets. A spokesman is cited in the Journal and on Bloomberg saying the company is aware of the investigations and is co-operating with them.

Another company seems to have found accounting irregularities. This time it is St Ives, the printer used across the City and by many companies for their official documents. The shares are off a fifth.

We also have first-half results from Antofagasta, benefiting from high copper prices, CRH and Bunzl.

Apax and KKR have confirmed they are not going to proceed with a bid for Signet.

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