Barclays' painful deal
Barclays says that it has sold iShares - a provider of specialist stock-market funds - for £3bn.
But it's not a sale in the sense that most of us would recognise. Because it has lent the buyer, the private-equity house CVC, £2.1bn of the purchase price.
In fact Barclays' continued exposure to iShares seems even greater than just those loans, in that the deal adds £2.7bn to what the bank shows on its balance sheet as its so-called risk weighted assets.
That said, Barclays says that through the miracle of how banks do their accounting there will be a useful addition to its capital resources, its buffer against losses on lending.
Some would argue that extra bit of buffer has been acquired at the steep price of selling a growing business at a knockdown price into a buyer's market.
Which only goes to show quite how desperately Barclays - like most banks - needs capital, even if it has avoided the indignity suffered by Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland of getting that capital from us, from taxpayers.
What's even more delightful for the purchaser, Barclays will pay CVC £120m if it rats on the deal by securing better terms from another bidder (there's also provision for both Barclays and CVC to receive between £34m and £120m if either side walks away for other reasons).
And for some Barclays employees who have stakes in a subsidiary of the bank, BGI, there's a lovely windfall from the deal, in the form of a cash dividend and a more than doubling of their holding in BGI.
Barclays' president, Bob Diamond, will receive £4.7m in cash and a substantial increase in his interest in BGI.
So to summarise: Barclays is providing the buyer of iShares most of the finance to "buy" iShares; the purchaser will receive £120m, if Barclays secures a better offer; and the transaction has triggered handsome rewards for some Barclays' employees.
In normal times, that would be seen as a deal so bad for the bank that shareholders would be volunteering to throw themselves off Beachy Head.
But Barclays' share price rose more than 12 per cent today.
To state the obvious, these are not normal times, these are credit-crunch times: and, I guess, if a bank can raise capital in any way at all without tapping taxpayers, that's seen as good news.
PS. I'm planning to skive off for a few days. So forgive me if Picks goes quiet for a bit (and if you appreciate the silence, you don't need to inform me).