Scandal-hit Barclays returns to first-quarter profits

British bank Barclays, seeking to recover from last year's damaging Libor rate-rigging scandal, announced on Wednesday that it bounced back into net profits in the first quarter of 2013.

Earnings after taxation stood at £839 million ($1.28 billion, 983 million euros) in the three months to March 31, Barclays said in a results statement. That contrasted with a net loss of £598 million in the same part of 2012.

"While there remains much to do to build a stronger and more resilient Barclays, we are completely focused on executing our Transform programme and are making good early progress," chief executive Antony Jenkins said in the statement.

The bank's profit was skewed by changes in the value of its debt and owing to an absence of the provisions seen a year earlier to compensate clients who were mis-sold insurance.

Adjusted profit before tax fell by a quarter to £1.79 billion, dented partly by restructuring costs that totalled £514 million as part of Jenkins' so-called Transform programme, the bank said. Bad debt provisions sank 10 percent to £706 million in the first quarter.

"We have recognised around £500 million of costs to achieve Transform in the first quarter, reflecting our immediate priorities to reduce our European retail branch network in order to focus on the mass-affluent segment and on re-positioning our equities and investment banking operations in Asia and Europe," Jenkins said.

He added that Barclays expected to recognise a further £500 million of costs related to the Transform plan this year.

Shares in the bank fell 1.26 percent to finish at 294.55 pence in Wednesday deals on London's benchmark FTSE 100 index, which ended 0.40 percent higher at 6,431.76 points.

"Barclays has a Herculean task in reinventing itself whilst at the same time continuing to grow the business," said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers.

"The shares are a long way from historic highs, but from a lower base the price has added 46 percent over the last year, as compared to a 12-percent gain for the wider FTSE 100."

Barclays had last week announced a fresh shake-up of its senior staff, including the departure of its head of investment banking, in the wake of the Libor affair.

Rich Ricci, the head of its investment banking unit, and Tom Kalaris, who runs its wealth-management arm and US business, are to retire in June.

Barclays was plunged into crisis in June 2012, when it was fined £290 million by British and US regulators for attempted manipulation of Libor and Euribor interbank rates between 2005 and 2009.

The scandal sparked the resignations of three Barclays senior board members, including Bob Diamond as chief executive. He was replaced by Jenkins, who was formerly head of retail and business banking.

Ricci was the most senior banker remaining from Diamond's time in charge. Under their watch, the Libor system was found to have been open to abuse, with some traders lying about borrowing costs to boost trading positions or make the bank seem more secure.

Royal Bank of Scotland and Swiss lender UBS have also been heavily fined in connection with the Libor scandal.

Barclays meanwhile has already said that it plans to axe at least 3,700 jobs this year after plunging into the red in 2012. The bank employs about 140,000 staff worldwide.

As part of the restructuring, Jenkins is shutting Barclay's controversial Structured Capital Markets division, which gained notoriety for its advice to multinational companies on reducing their tax bills.

The group has also stopped trading soft commodities -- such as agricultural products -- for speculative purposes after concluding that it was not compatible with the bank's aims.