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Barclays considers a return to consumer banking in India

[MUMBAI] Barclays Plc is considering a return to consumer banking in India as it seeks to deploy more of the capital it holds in the South Asian unit, people familiar with the matter said.

The UK bank, which decided to pull out of the business in 2011, aims to rebuild the retail banking operation in Asia's third-largest economy through digital channels this time around, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information isn't public. Barclaycard International Chief Executive Officer Barry Rodrigues would oversee the platform, which would mobilize deposits and offer loans electronically, the people said.

Barclays is reentering some businesses and markets in the Asia-Pacific region as CEO Jes Staley puts an era of restructuring behind him. It reopened its Australia office in April to focus on advisory and capital markets, two years after exiting the country.

The Indian retail business model wouldn't require any additional capital infusion from the parent company because the amount that it holds in the nation would be enough for its growth plans there, the people said.

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"While we are constantly evaluating all opportunities for profitable and sustainable growth of our business across the geographies that we operate in, there are no plans at this time to enter retail banking in India," the bank's Mumbai office said in an emailed reply to questions. "India remains a key focus market for Barclays." The company has more than US$1 billion of invested capital in the nation, it said.

In 2011, Barclays decided to wind down consumer lending operations in India, shut most of its branches there and sell 32 billion rupees (S$635 million) of loans as Europe's debt crisis and increased regulation threatened to erode earnings. The lender, which had about 79 outlets in the country at its peak, then shifted its focus to wealth management and corporate and investment banking. It has six branches in India now.

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