LONDON- Activist investor Edward Bramson has admitted defeat in his battle for a seat on the board at Barclays, saying he knows top shareholders have voted against his bid to overhaul the under-fire investment bank as an insider.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the lender's annual general meeting on Thursday, the activist said fellow investors had been swayed by personal appeals from Barclays' incoming Chairman Nigel Higgins for the opportunity to resolve the investment bank's long-standing problems.
Bramson said his investment fund Sherborne Investors disagreed with giving the bank more time, arguing that he had seen little change at Barclays before the past six weeks, when Tim Throsby, former boss of Barclays International, was pushed out.
New York-based Bramson has been sparring with Barclays for more than a year over his plans to shrink the lender's investment bank to improve returns.
He said there was "an option" to keep Barclays' investment bank but only if it could become a worthwhile asset for investors.
Shares in the lender, which have fallen more than 20 percent in the past 12 months - more than double the losses suffered by rival lenders including Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC - were trading 1.2 percent higher by 1014 GMT.
Addressing shareholders, Barclays' departing Chairman John McFarlane said the board unanimously rejected Bramson's resolution, which it believed would "destabilise" the bank.
"We've had a full 12 months of clean and respectable profits, producing earnings per share of 20 pence. When I joined, we were loss-making and dividends were paid from reserves. We've firmly drawn a line on the past," McFarlane said.
"Finally, we are fitter and putting runs on the board but remain shy of championship fitness," he added.
Bramson's concession indicates broader investor confidence in Chief Executive Jes Staley's plan to boost the lender's lacklustre share price by prioritising growth in the investment bank.
Staley's strategy has included a costly hiring spree of rainmakers and a diversion of capital from Barclays' retail arm towards higher risk lending and trading activity.
Barclays was also tackled by a group of climate change protesters, calling for an end to its financing of fossil fuel projects, both inside and outside the venue.
Around 15-20 campaigners from groups including student activist network People & Planet gathered outside the meeting. Some waved banners reading 'Fossil Banks-No Thanks', days after environmental group Extinction Rebellion paralysed parts of the British capital in protests against the impact of climate change.
Several protesters were dragged away from the QEII conference centre in Westminster by police and security staff, while seven or eight students who had gained entry to the auditorium disrupted Staley's announcement of a new climate change policy.
"Tell the truth," the protesters demanded, before being escorted out of the room.
Barclays provided the most financing among European banks for fossil fuel-related projects in 2018 and the sixth highest among lenders worldwide, according to a report by campaigning organisation BankTrack.
Activists' efforts in recent years to pressure banks to stop funding such projects have been bolstered by increasing support from big bank shareholders.
Investment management firms including Hermes, Edentree and Boston Common on Wednesday wrote to CEO Staley urging him to stop funding companies involved in coal mining or oil sands exploitation.
(Reporting By Lawrence White and Sinead Cruise Editing by Keith Weir and Susan Fenton) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +44 207 542 6137; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))