Britain's Barclays is confident of an independent future, its chief executive said on Friday, dismissing speculation that its failure to win control of ABN AMRO could leave it vulnerable to takeover.
Britain's third-largest bank conceded defeat in the 7-month battle for the Dutch bank on Friday clearing the way for a trio led by Royal Bank of Scotland to secure victory, but John Varley said the bank was not dependent on ABN for growth.
In comments set to feed the debate over the 72 billion-euro ($102 billion) price tag of the winning ABN bid in a time of market turbulence, he said Barclays had stuck by its opportunistic approach, and refused to overpay.
We were always very clear that we should pursue this, but pursue it on (our) terms in particular we should not overpay, Varley said in a telephone interview. It goes with that that we should be in a position where we could walk away.
I feel a sense of disappointment, of course I do, because I would like us to have merged with ABN AMRO, but it is disappointment not despondency and not dependency, he said.
Barclays was originally ABN's preferred suitor since it planned to keep the business whole, but the Dutch bank later switched to a neutral stance after the gap between the two bids widened.
Analysts have speculated that Barclays, bruised by the fight for ABN, could itself become a target.
In the end, the market troubles that eroded the value of Barclays' mostly shares offer for the Dutch bank have also dampened talk of a bid for the $90 billion British-based banking giant.
I have complete confidence in the independent future of Barclays, Varley said.
Drawing a line under the ABN saga on Friday, Varley said the bank was back on plan A, or organic growth, and confirmed medium-term growth targets for two key engines of the bank Barclays Capital, its investment banking arm, and Barclays Global Investors despite a short-term slowdown.
I acknowledge that some parts of the financial markets have been very turbulent over the summer, but my view about the medium-term outlook for those businesses is completely unchanged, Varley said.
Our view is that through time BarCap and BGI, the two business which give our principle exposure to capital markets, will both grow at 15 to 20 percent compound growth.
He said the bank was well-placed to take advantage of growth in the financial services industry, but would not shy away from considering other merger opportunities.
M&A should be the servant, not the master of strategy, he said. Barclays has doubled its profits over the course of the last years, and most of that growth has come from organic development ... Of course we are prepared to look at M&A -- the key thing is not to be dependent on M&A.