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Posted On: 6 February 2013 03:18 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:12 pm

Barclays in a fix as details of Qatar Connection emerge

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UK authorities' investigations into whether Barclays gave a loan to Qatar to fund its cashcall in 2008 have highlighted the bank's desperate and ultimately successful attempt to avoid a state bailout at the height of the financial crisis as reported by Qatar Chronicle. The Financial Times this week revealed that the UK's Financial Services Authority and the Serious Fraud Office are looking into such allegations, adding yet another blow to Barclays' attempts to repair its tarnished image. The identity of the borrower and the size of a possible loan remain unclear; however, one person close to the situation said Qatar Holding was not its recipient. Qatar Holding was one of two Qatari investors that participated in Barclays' two cash calls in 2008. The other one was Challenger, an investment vehicle of Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, the prime minister of Qatar, and his family. Qatar Holding , the FSA and SFO as well as Barclays all declined to comment. Sheikh Hamad - who is also the chairman of Qatar Holding and the emirate's prime minister - could not be reached for comment. It also emerged on Friday that Credit Suisse granted a regulator-approved interim loan to Qatar for its SFr10bn capital raising in October 2008, the same month as Barclays' second cash call. Credit Suisse's financing arrangement was disclosed and approved by Swiss regulators, two people close to the situation said. That Credit Suisse undertook a similar - legal - transaction with the Qataris underscores the wider practice of western banks seeking emergency funding from Middle Eastern and Asian investors as a way of shoring up capital and staying out of government hands. "Barclays is not alone in having followed this route in getting investors on board during the crisis," analysts at Mediobanca said in a note. "This is a fairly common practice, but the concern is around whether this was properly disclosed at the time," they added. It is only now, more than four years later, that those deals are coming under the scrutiny of both the authorities and the courts. The tabular content relating to this article is not available to view. Apologies in advance for the inconvenience caused. The tabular content relating to this article is not available to view. Apologies in advance for the inconvenience caused. > As well as the FSA's and SFO's investigation into Barclays cash calls, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating a number of banks over their dealings with sovereign wealth funds. The inquiry is ongoing. If deals done at the height of the financial crisis were not illegal, some remain controversial and their legitimacy is being decided by civil courts. Citigroup, for example, remains in dispute with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority over the sovereign wealth fund's $7.5bn investment in 2007. While an arbitration panel found for Citi in 2011, Adia is challenging the decision and is still claiming as much as $4bn damages against the bank. Another allegation of wrongdoing could not come at a worse time for Barclays, which is trying to put a string of scandals behind it - from the mis-selling of investment swaps and payment protection insurance to the manipulation and lowballing of the London interbank offered rate, a key benchmark rate that is also a measure of a bank's strength. Antony Jenkins, who took over from Bob Diamond as chief executive last summer after Mr Diamond left in the wake of the Libor scandal, has tried to burnish the bank's image. In some ways, lowballing Libor and the cash call are linked: both contain elements of the bank attempting to signal to the market that its financial health was robust. It was October 29 2008 - just two days before the bank's second cash call was announced - that the now-infamous phone call took place between Paul Tucker, the deputy governor of the Bank of England, and Mr Diamond, who was then head of the Barclays' investment-banking division, over the comparatively high rates submitted by Barclays. Mr Tucker told Mr Diamond that "senior figures within Whitehall" were asking why Barclays' estimates of its Libor borrowing costs were higher than those of other banks, according to Mr Diamond's contemporaneous notes of the call. On the day Mr Diamond spoke to the BoE, the bank's estimate for three-month Libor was 4 per cent. The next day it dropped to 3.4 per cent. While neither Mr Tucker nor Mr Diamond took the call to mean that Barclays should lower its Libor submissions, Jerry del Missier, then co-head of the investment bank, "misinterpreted" Mr Diamond's note and instructed his staff to lower their estimates of the bank's borrowing costs. Mr del Missier resigned after the bank's £290m settlement over Libor in June. The desperation of Barclays to stay out of the control of the UK government - and therefore not be subjected to rigorous restrictions on its strategy and executives' pay - that autumn of 2008 cannot be understated, say people involved in the situation at the time. In the months between the bank announcing its first and second cash call in June and October 2008 respectively, Lehman Brothers collapsed, in one of the world's biggest bankruptcies. That precipitated the government taking stakes in the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Lloyds TSB. Barclays surprised rivals and regulators when it chose not to participate in an October 2008 recapitalisation that involved the UK government injecting up to £37bn into RBS, HBOS and Lloyds TSB. However, Barclays still needed to boost its reserves by £10bn by issuing equity, selling assets and slashing its final dividend for 2008, according to the FSA. The bank insisted it would raise the money privately. Ultimately the bank's two cash calls worked: by March 2009 the FSA concluded that the lender had enough capital to withstand another severe economic downturn.