So they issued a bond, which seems to be known as EB20.K22 for short and Barclays 7.125 24 Oct 2049 for long. This bond is sold in units of face value a thousand pounds, and each of these units pays its holder £71.25 on the 24th of October each year until 2048, and then £1071.25 on 24/10/2049.
The reason this is vaguely interesting is that one unit of the bond appears on a share-details site as selling for £873.50; that's an 8.1% yield which is not to be sniffed at (yes, yes, conditional on Barclays not going bust ... but I was happy to own Barclays shares and the bonds are senior to the shares)
So I rang my broker (it is not possible to buy these directly over the Internet for some reason), and made a number of mildly costly discoveries which I will list here so they come as less of a surprise to anyone else tempted by the retail bond market:
- Unlike shares in large companies, which tend to trade pretty close to the price that appears in the charts, there is a bid-offer spread the size of a small country house (and probably used for the purpose of acquiring small country houses for bond traders) on even this kind of vaguely mainstream bond; the price I was offered was £910
- The price of shares in large companies goes in a sort of saw-tooth pattern as dividends become due and are paid; but the amount that comes out of your account is determined only by the price of the share as you buy it. But a person buying a bond in the middle of the year is expected to pay to the seller the proportion of the interest that the bond has not yet paid; that is, there was an unexpected extra fee of £62.74 per bond because I was roughly 62.74/71.25 of the way through the year.
- Less surprisingly, there's 0.5% stamp duty and a £16.50 commission.
So this wasn't quite as good a deal as I thought; I've paid £1971.71 now for £142.50 every 24th October until I am 72, and the effect of the bid-offer spread and the compensation-for-unclaimed-interest is such that I would get only about £1800 back if I sold the bond tomorrow. Since the ECB decision made shares in Barclays soar this afternoon, I'd have been more sensible just to buy the shares. Such is life; I'm not complaining.