Barclays directly targets private credit funds

Barclays Plc has earmarked cash from its balance sheet to hold corporate loans and compete directly with private credit funds, according to people with knowledge of the matter, as more banks look for ways to gain a foothold in the $1.5 trillion market for private debt.

The strategy, which Barclays plans to grow into the billions of US dollars, involves purchasing slugs of debt originated by the bank and participating in new financing arranged by direct lending funds, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing confidential information. It is led by Emily Knickel, the bank’s New York-based head of principal investing.

A Barclays spokesman declined to comment.

The move comes as the private credit market has morphed into a go-to avenue to finance multi-billion dollar buyouts. Banks used to have a stranglehold on that market but are now frequently missing out as private equity firms turn to asset managers such as Ares Management Corp. and Blackstone Inc. for financing.

Barclays has been plotting a foray into private credit since at least last year. Many companies, particularly those controlled by private equity, turned to private lenders following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when public markets became jittery. Banks have started to repopulate their financing pipelines in recent months, landing roles on large deals as credit conditions in public markets improved.

Other banks have also sought to snare a piece of the action in private credit. JPMorgan Chase & Co., for instance, has set aside $10 billion to refocus its approach to direct lending. Bank of Montreal has a partnership with Oak Hill Advisors, while Capital One Financial Corp. has made unitranche loans through Ultra, a joint venture with HPS Investment Partners.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which is one of the oldest players in this space, holds loans through its asset management arm, which includes third-party capital gathered by its its mammoth mezzanine debt vehicle. Last year, Deutsche Bank AG began preparing a fresh push into private credit, which includes raising money from external investors.

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