Europe Financial Bond House: Barclays

IFR Awards 2023
5 min read
Tom Revell

One-stop shop

To dig into the deals that constitute Barclays’ impressive showing across the full FIG product suite in 2023 is to be reminded of the best of issuers’ achievements in a uniquely challenging year. For its leadership in AT1 and its advice and execution prowess across markets, Barclays is IFR’s Europe Financial Bond House of the Year.

To start with a telling statistic: in the year that the Additional Tier 1 market faced the biggest test in its history, no bank led more euro, sterling and Reg S US dollar AT1s than Barclays’ 12.

The bank was at the forefront of a fast start to the year for AT1 issuance, as demonstrated by a quick-fire €500m 9.375% issuance from Banco de Sabadell on January 4. Barclays guided the Spanish lender through a newly opened window to refinance an AT1 it had only recently extended, in a transaction widely praised for its investor-friendly approach.

Other early highlights included Lloyds’s £750m 8.5% AT1, and Alpha Bank’s €400m 11.875% AT1, only the second ever publicly issued AT1 from Greece. The bank would also prove dominant in the Spanish sub sector – leading all six euro AT1s from the country.

But it was after the collapse of Credit Suisse in March, and the wipeout of the Swiss bank’s entire AT1 stack, that leadership was truly required.

Amid the biggest sell-off in the history of AT1s, as some market participants predicted the market’s demise, Barclays was in the thick of the many discussions taking place between investors, issuers, banks and regulators, driving the dialogue towards the ultimate reopening of the market.

“A lot of it has been coaxing money back into the product by giving [investors] comfort around not only the structural variances and nuances around AT1s from different jurisdictions, but also getting that regulatory insight into what could happen,” said Marco Baldini, global co-head of IG syndicate at Barclays.

That work came to fruition in June, when Barclays led a €1bn 8.375% perpetual non-call 5.5-year for BBVA that was one of two deals to reopen the euro AT1 market.

“It was no coincidence, given our footprint and leadership in the space, that BBVA came to us and asked us to advise them on accessing the market,” said Mark Geller, global head of banks debt capital markets at Barclays.

BBVA set the template. It showed the market was still open at economically attractive levels for issuers, pricing just 12.5bp back of a €750m AT1 issued by compatriot CaixaBank in March.

The qualities evident in Barclays’ role in the AT1 market – diligence, international intelligence and execution expertise – proved invaluable to its FIG clients in a turbulent year and it was rewarded with mandates across the full credit spectrum. No other contender could match Barclays’ combination of being a dominant force in AT1 while also being a mainstay across the rest of the vast FIG market.

The bank’s share of some deal flows may not be quite as big as its largest Continental European rivals, but it confirmed its presence as a top player in 2023, with a top five league table position for combined euro and sterling supply – putting aside its major role in the Yankee market.

As one market closed, another opened, and Barclays was on hand to guide issuers to it.

The roll call of issuers that underlined their trust in Barclays with repeat mandates catches the eye – Santander, Rabobank, Lloyds, Intesa Sanpaolo, Swedbank and CaixaBank, to name a few. Be it for capital, senior or covereds, in euros, sterling or US dollars, seasoned funders turned to Barclays time and again.

But in a market reshaped by higher yields, it was small, infrequent issuers who most needed a guiding hand. Here too Barclays stepped up, whether for Cypriot Tier 2 paper offering double-digit yields or more tightly priced Icelandic senior preferreds.

In covered bonds, Barclays massively increased its market share year on year. The bank leaned on its expertise as a leading covered bond structurer and adviser to win 60 mandates, up from 36 in 2022.

As issuers grappled with increased funding needs and a diminished investor base, Barclays led swathes of issuers – from Asia-Pacific and Canada to European markets – while also being a trusted adviser for the full range of European issuers.

Barclays' crossborder credentials are also evident in its stewardship of nine of the 11 euro or sterling-denominated funding agreement-backed notes issuances from US insurers in 2023, including multiple debuts.

“As we’ve proven over the course of this year, our clients have been able to use us seamlessly almost as a one-stop shop for advice and execution,” said Geller.

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