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Sunday, November 14, 1999 Published at 17:20 GMT

Business: The Company File

Barclays closes branches

Barclays Bank is to close about 200 of its branches next year in an unexpected escalation of its cost-cutting efforts.

The bank - now under the leadership of Canadian chief executive Matthew Barrett - is thought likely to start closing the branches in the spring, although details of the exact number and their locations have yet to be completed.

The BBC's Simon Gompertz reports "This is another carcass of a Barclays Bank, closed down on Friday"

A company spokesman confirmed that these closures would be part of a larger programme of refocusing the group.

Barclays says it is planning an investment programme for the rest of the branch network and other methods of serving customers, such as internet and telephone banking.

[ image: Matthew Barrett: Said to be accelerating change at Barclays]
Matthew Barrett: Said to be accelerating change at Barclays
Details of the restructuring are expected to be announced within the next two months, following further consultations with the banking union, Unifi.

The Sunday Telegraph says the decision is being seen by analysts as evidence that Mr Barrett - who took over at Barclays last month - is "determined to step up the pace of cost-cutting".

It says analysts have estimated that the cuts will bring savings of more than £20m a year.

Barclays currently has 1,900 UK branches, the second-largest network after Lloyds TSB.

Its internet banking business claims to have more than 400,000 regular users, with 5,000 new customers signing up every week.

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