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Barclays 'planning US retail bank buyout'

Barclays is looking into plans to buy a large US retail bank, it has been reported.

Company insiders told the Financial Times that discussions about the possible acquisition of an unnamed financial institution in America are ongoing.

It was stated that Antony Jenkins, the new head of Barclays' retail banking activities, is already in the process of drawing up a strategy paper regarding a potential acquisition to present to the board of directors at the company within the next two or three months.

"Nothing is imminent but we're opportunistic," said one source. "If we do something, we will do it big."

Industry analysts have speculated on the possible identity of the US bank that Barclays is looking at – with SunTrust, US Bancorp and PNC Financial all cited as potential targets.

All three of those financial institutions have been the subject of government bailout funding since the global financial crisis took hold.

Barclays has already successfully profited from the aftermath of the crisis – its acquisition of Lehman Brothers following the collapse of the financial institution in September 2008 helped the British bank record pre-tax profits of £11.6 billion ($18.2 billion) in 2009.

The figure was more than 90 per higher than the total recorded in 2008.

When the bank announced its annual results last month, John Varley, Barclays' chief executive said the bank would be looking to continue to builds on its success in 2009 throughout this year.

"Despite the regulatory uncertainty that will continue to confront the industry this year, our strategic path remains clear - to increase the growth potential of Barclays by continuing to diversify our business by customer, product and geography," he stated.

Mr Varley added that the "sea change" experienced by the wealth management industry across the world in the past three years had created opportunities that Barclays "intends to seize".

By Gary Cooper