Sterling Bond House: Barclays

IFR Awards 2019
4 min read
Philip Wright

Top of the tree

When you are viewed as one of the most relevant players in your home market, the temptation might be to rest on your laurels. Barclays consciously avoided any such complacency, however, and demonstrated that progress is possible, even from a position of strength. Barclays is IFR’s Sterling Bond House of the Year.

It is unlikely anyone would be shocked to discover Barclays was among the most active bookrunners in the sterling bond market.

What might come as more of a surprise, however, is that Barclays was alone among the top tier of underwriters to increase its market share across all constituents of the sector during the awards period. Be it in corporates, financials or the public sector, Barclays increased its presence, ending the year at the top of the tree overall.

There is, of course, more to claiming the crown than sheer volume, and Barclays was able to provide direction and considered advice in a market where conditions were on occasion volatile and the backdrop sometimes far from benign.

“While it’s difficult to be number one everywhere, what you can do is demonstrate market leadership across many areas,” said Pete Mason, head of DCM for EMEA. “And we can offer the full product suite.”

Barclays was quick to identify the themes that would define the year – and embrace them – no matter how unexpected.

Who, for example, could have predicted that a currency beleaguered by Brexit concerns and battered by political headwinds would play host to quite so many overseas borrowers? But, in the event, crossborder issuance in excess of £65bn accounted for more than half of overall supply.

And Barclays played its part across the asset classes, from Orange, BPCE and EBRD early in the year, through resurgent US issuers such as Verizon, McDonald’s, FIS, New York Life, MetLife and Wells Fargo, to more esoteric fare from the likes of CK Hutchison and ICBC.

The concept – if not its implementation – is quite simple, according to Marco Baldini, head of European bond syndicate, with the bank’s broad, global platform providing the opportunity to take advantage of funding windows and diversification.

“The question is, are you keeping the issuers happy and are you keeping the investors happy?” he said. And a bank as well connected as Barclays on both sides of the equation was ideally positioned to answer such a question.

Navigating the best path is just one facet; sometimes a commitment is required that not all are willing to display. A case in point for Barclays was its role in Just Group’s £300m Restricted Tier 1, which it fully underwrote and which came concurrently with a £75m non-pre-emptive cash placing of new ordinary shares. Rothesay Life was another beneficiary of the bank’s ability to steer multi-faceted transactions through the market.

Coventry Building Society offered further evidence of Barclays’ FIG credentials, when the bank helped it undertake the first buyback of a sterling AT1 within the first five years of such a bond’s life, as did the CYBG/Virgin Money issuer substitution on both AT1 and senior notes.

Indeed, Barclays was instrumental in helping a number of borrowers with liability management exercises in various guises, particularly domestically for the likes of L&Q, WPP, Heathrow and Co-operative Group, among others.

With benchmark reform more advanced in the UK than elsewhere and the transition from Libor to Sonia putting the replacement rate firmly in the mainstream, Barclays led numerous transactions across the SSA and financials sector, particularly in covered bond format in the latter.

Equally topical was the ESG sector and, here again, Barclays played a role in issuance across the various subsectors, from a multi-tranche deal for Orsted that included an innovative CPI-linked piece, through a debut social bond from MORhomes, to a sustainability issue from the Co-op.

And perhaps notable for other reasons was EIB’s long five-year green bond in July. At £800m it was the largest single tranche in the currency, but it was the distribution that demonstrated another of the year’s themes. Just 63% was placed in the British Isles, with the rest of Europe and Japan playing significant roles.

Internationalisation of the market, it appears, was present on the buyside as well as the sellside throughout the year. Who better, then, to take advantage of such dynamics than a strong domestic bank with equally compelling global credentials?

To see the digital version of this report, please click here

To purchase printed copies or a PDF of this report, please email