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Barclays has reported a doubling of underlying quarterly profits, excluding a big hit for selling its African unit, as its chief executive sought to shift attention away from him breaking rules on the treatment of whistleblowers.

Jes Staley, who is being investigated for trying to discover the identity of a whistleblower by British and American regulators, said: “We are now just two months away from completing the restructuring of Barclays as a transatlantic consumer, corporate and investment bank and there is further good reason in this quarter’s performance to feel optimistic for our prospects.”

The bank reported attributable profits of £190m for the three months to March, down from £433m in the same period of last year. But this included the £658m post-tax cost of selling its African business.

Profits after tax from continuing operations more than doubled to £1.2bn – outstripping analyst expectations. Revenues rose 16 per cent to £5.8bn, while operating costs shrank 5 per cent to £3.6bn.

The underlying results are an indication that Mr Staley’s decision to double down on Barclays’ investment bank while selling its large African operation and slashing its dividend in half may be starting to pay off.

Profits were flat at the bank’s UK division, while they rose by a third at its international arm, which includes its investment bank. The biggest improvement, however, was in its non-core division, where losses fell 70 per cent to £241m.

The improved results bring some relief to Mr Staley, who has been heavily criticised for last year ordering the bank’s security team to try to identify a whistleblower who had made allegations about a recently-recruited senior employee. The CEO had previously been told by compliance staff that this was not appropriate.

Some investors have told the Financial Times they are sceptical Mr Staley can survive the scrutiny he faces from regulators, which have the power to ban him from working in finance.

The Barclays boss has already been formerly reprimanded by his board, which also promised to dock his bonus by an amount that is to be determined once regulators release their findings.

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