Is it too soon to buy Barclays plc?

With Barclays (LSE: BARC) having a new CEO, it’s currently in the midst of implementing a new strategy. As such, many investors may feel that it’s wise to await evidence of the progress being made by the bank before buying it. After all, its new strategy has hardly proved popular with investors, as evidenced by the bank’s share price fall of 18% since the turn of the year.

Clearly, Barclays’ decision to reduce dividends has caused investor sentiment to come under a degree of pressure. This is understandable since Barclays has been earmarked as a potential future income star and while this may not ring true in the current year, using a greater proportion of profits to shore up the bank’s balance sheet could cause improved financial performance in the long run.

Of course, Barclays’ road to improved financial performance could be a challenging one. It looks set to include asset disposals and the search for improved efficiencies, which could cause a degree of disappointment on the earnings front in the short run. However, this could provide long-term investors with the opportunity to buy Barclays at a substantial discount to its intrinsic value, which may lead to better than expected capital gains in the long run.

Value for money

In fact, with Barclays’ share price having lagged the index since the turn of the year it now trades on a price-to-book (P/B) ratio of less than 0.5. This indicates that even if Barclays were to double in price it would still be trading at less than net asset value and would therefore be viewed as offering good value for money by many investors. As a result, Barclays seems to offer huge potential for capital gains, although it may take time for them to be realised if investor sentiment remains subdued.

One potential catalyst to push Barclays’ share price higher is upbeat forecasts. While in the current year Barclays is expected to post a fall in its bottom line of 18%, it’s due to bounce back next year with growth of 57% being pencilled-in by the market. This has the potential to cause a major shift in investor sentiment and with Barclays having a price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio of 0.1, there’s tremendous scope for a rapid rise in its share price if it’s able to deliver on its new strategy.

While doubts are always present when any company appoints a new CEO and seeks to implement a refreshed strategy, Barclays seems to offer a sufficiently wide margin of safety to merit investment at the present time. In other words, the risks to the bank’s financial performance appear to be adequately priced-in, with its P/B and PEG ratios being difficult to justify given its diversity, financial strength and upbeat long-term outlook.

So, while Barclays’ share price could move lower in the short term, for long-term investors now could be a sound opportunity to buy a high quality asset at a bargain basement price.

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Peter Stephens owns shares of Barclays. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.