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3 Things to Love About Barclays

By G. A. Chester - Apr 16, 2013 at 8:59AM

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Do these three things make Barclays a good investment?

LONDON -- There are things to love and loathe about most companies. Today, I'm going to tell you three things to love about Barclays (BARC 1.61%) (BCS 1.39%).

I'll also be asking whether these positive factors make this FTSE 100 bank a good investment today.

Low earnings multiple
Barclays is on a low price-to-earnings (P/E) rating compared with its Footsie banking rivals. The table below shows analyst consensus forecasts for the current year and next.

CompanyRecent Share
P/E 2013P/E 2014
Barclays 299p 8.2 6.9
HSBC Holdings 688p 10.8 9.6
Lloyds Banking Group 49p 11.0 8.7
Royal Bank of Scotland Group 285p 11.9 8.7
Standard Chartered 1,630p 10.3 9.4

As you can see, Barclays is not merely at a discount to its peers, but a substantial discount.

In the wake of the LIBOR-fixing scandal, Barclays was courageous enough to commission an independent report from lawyer and City grandee Anthony Salz into how and why standards at the bank had fallen into the gutter.

Inevitably, the report made for "uncomfortable reading at times", as chairman Sir David Walker put it. But Barclays can be applauded for meeting the cultural crisis at the bank head-on as a first move toward a new era of responsibility and transparency.

Barclaycard has a heritage of innovation, from the launch of the first credit card in the U.K. in 1966 to the world's first social media credit card in the U.S. last year.

Advertising for Barclaycard has also been pretty impressive over the years. The old Rowan Atkinson spy character adverts still stick in my mind, and I love the more recent "waterslide" and "roller-coaster" ads, too.

The Barclaycard division seems to be going from strength to strength: the number of customers leapt to 29 million in 2012 from 23 million the previous year, while underlying profit soared 25% higher to 1.5 billion pounds.

A good investment?
There's no doubt Barclays needs to rebuild its reputation. The new brooms in the boardroom are certainly talking the talk, and appear determined to walk the walk, so I think there's reason for optimism.

Barclays' low forecast P/E rating and strong forecast earnings growth -- the shares are also at a discount to book value -- suggest the bank could make for a good long-term investment.

Finally, if you already have Barclays or another bank tucked away in your portfolio and are looking for blue-chip shares in other sectors, I recommend you help yourself to the very latest free Motley Fool report.

You see, the Fool's top analysts have identified a select group of Footsie companies they believe will generate superior long-term growth. Such is their conviction about the quality of these businesses that they've called the report "5 Shares to Retire On."

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Stocks Mentioned

Barclays PLC Stock Quote
Barclays PLC
$8.74 (1.39%) $0.12
Barclays PLC Stock Quote
Barclays PLC
$170.38 (1.61%) $2.70

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