Why Have Forecasts For Barclays PLC Been Slashed?

Barclays (LSE: BARC) (NYSE: BCS.US) was the high street bank that escaped the crash without needing a bailout, and it was tipped by many as the one to lead the sector out of crisis.

But in the course of the past 12 months, bullish earnings forecasts have been cut back drastically, so what’s gone wrong?

Analyst reversal

A year ago, the great and good of the City were bullishly predicting earnings per share (EPS) of a bit under 30p for Barclays this year, and with all the negativity still surrounding the banking business, surely they were being cautious?

That 30p would have given us a massive 80% rise on last year’s 16.7p per share, but the prediction has been steadily revised downwards to a current consensus of a bit under 21p per share. That would still be a pleasing boost of 25%, but it’s far from the expectations that punters had a year ago.

But in that year, a lot has happened.

As recently as September, Barclays was fined a record £38m by the Financial Conduct Authority for failing to keep £16.5bn of clients’ assets appropriately separated from its own. The offences covered the period of 2007 to 2012, but it had been going on until surprisingly late considering the intense scrutiny on the banks these days.

Dark what?

On top of that, the bank is under investigation over its so-called dark pool trading platform. Such things allow member investors to take on large trades without revealing the prices paid or the volumes traded, and so not affect the share price the way an openly-revealed trade would (that is, the way most of us have to trade).

US regulators believe this is insufficiently transparent, and investigations (which could lead to fines) are ongoing.

On top of that, Barclays’ third-quarter update released on 30 October told us that core adjusted pre-tax profit is expected to be only “broadly stable at £5,587m” — and that’s down from the core figure a year ago, which came in at £5,682m.

In all, Barclays’ expected return to health and growth has not been as strong or as rapid as previously hoped.

Share price down

The share price has suffered as a result, and a 7% drop over 12 months to 236p has left us staring at a forward P/E multiple of only 9 based on 2015 forecasts, with a 4% dividend yield predicted.

That could be adversely affected if this year’s sluggishness continues, but for a longer term investment I reckon Barclays shares are definitely worth a closer look.

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Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.