Is Barclays The Ultimate Retirement Share?

Published in Company Comment on 31 August 2012

Will shares in Barclays help you build a FTSE-beating retirement fund?

The last five years have been tough for those in retirement. Portfolio valuations have been hammered and annuity rates have plunged. There's no sign of things improving anytime soon, either, as the eurozone and the UK economy look set to muddle through at best for some years to come.

A great way of protecting yourself from the downturn, however, is by building your retirement fund with shares of large, well-run companies that should grow their earnings steadily over the coming decades. Over time, such investments ought to result in rising dividends and inflation-beating capital growth.

In this series, I'm tracking down the UK large-caps that have the potential to beat the FTSE 100 (UKX) over the long term and support a lower-risk income-generating retirement fund (you can see the companies I've covered so far on this page).

Today, I'm going to take a look at one of the UK's big four banks, Barclays (LSE: BARC) (NYSE: BCS.US). Barclays was recently embarrassed by the LIBOR scandal, after which its colourful former CEO, Bob Diamond, resigned. Yesterday, it announced it had appointed a new chief executive, Antony Jenkins, a career staffer at the bank who was previously head of retail banking and has also been in charge of Barclaycard, in both cases with considerable success.

Start low, aim high

Jenkins will have his hands full trying to improve Barclays' performance record against the FTSE 100. As these figures show, the bank's performance over the last 10 years has been far from impressive:

Total Return20072008200920102011Trailing 10 yr avg.
FTSE 1007.4%-28.3%27.3%12.6%-2.2%6.9%

Source: Morningstar

(Total return includes both changes to the share price and reinvested dividends. These two ingredients combined are what make it possible for equity portfolios to regularly outperform cash and bonds over the long term.)

Barclays' trailing 10-year average shows how hard it is for companies to overcome the effects of a few bad years and highlights how important stability is to your portfolio; always remember that recovering from a 50% loss requires a 100% gain -- just to get you back to where you started.

For Barclays' new CEO, the challenge of creating sustainable growth will be amplified by the fragility of the eurozone crisis and the bank's ongoing legal and reputational problems.

What's the score?

To help me pinpoint suitable investments, I like to score companies on key financial metrics that highlight the characteristics I look for in a retirement share. Let's see how Barclays shapes up:

Year founded1896
Market cap£22bn
Net debt-
Dividend Yield3.3%
5 year average financials
Operating margin20.6%
Interest covern/a
EPS growth-14.9%
Dividend growth60%*
Dividend cover6.5x

Source: Morningstar, Digital Look

*Improbable figures like this are what happen when the dividend is slashed almost to nothing and then reinstated. In reality, Barclays' forecast dividend for 2012 is 20% of its 2007 dividend.

Here's how I've scored Barclays on each of these criteria:

LongevityNo problems here.5/5
Performance vs. FTSEA sorry tale indeed.1/5
Financial strengthUnlikely to face major problems.4/5
EPS growthThis year may see a return to growth.3/5
Dividend growthGrowth of about 10% per year is forecast.3/5
Total: 16/25

Barclays avoided needing a government bailout during the financial crisis and today trades at about half of its tangible book value, despite being profitable. If you believe that the banking sector will eventually return to a profitable normality -- as I do -- then Barclays' shares could present an attractive value opportunity and the possibility of a much higher yield on cost in years to come -- ideal for a retirement portfolio.

The bank's score of 16/25 reflects the fact it is still in recovery and faces a number of potential hurdles. However, I think that it still makes a good candidate for a retirement fund portfolio.

Better than banking?

Some investors remain wary of banking shares, and given recent scandals, they may be right. One man who is still avoiding banking shares is fund manager Neil Woodford, who sold his banking shares well before the sector crashed, having seen the warning signs that most investors were choosing to ignore.

Mr. Woodford's record of identifying great dividend-paying shares is outstanding and his dividend stock picks outperformed the wider index by a staggering 305% in the 15 years to 31 December 2011. As a result, he has become one of the most successful income investors currently working in the City, overseeing more than £20bn of private investors' money -- more than any other City manager.

You can learn about Neil Woodford's top holdings and how he generates such fantastic profits in this free Motley Fool report. Many of Mr Woodford's choices look like excellent retirement shares to me and the report explains how he chose some of his biggest holdings.

This report is completely free and I strongly recommend you download"8 Shares Held By Britain's Super Investor" today, as it is available for a limited time only.

Warren Buffett buys British! The legendary investor has recently topped up on his favourite UK blue chip. Discover what he bought -- and the price he paid -- within our latest free report!

Further investment opportunities:

> Roland does not own shares in Barclays.

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