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Barclays first half profit falls 21 percent as costs of shrinking bite

A Barclays bank office is seen at Canary Wharf in London, Britain May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Barclays (BARC.L) reported a 21 percent dip in first-half pretax profits despite improved returns in its core business, as the costs of selling and shrinking the bank's unwanted assets in a harsh economic environment took its toll on earnings.

The British lender on Friday posted a half-year profit before tax of 2 billion pounds ($2.64 billion) compared with 2.6 billion pounds for the same period a year ago.

The decline in profit came largely from a loss of 1.9 billion pounds on Barclays' 'non-core' assets it has recommitted to offload by end-2017, despite fears of an imminent recession following Britain's decision to quit the European Union.

Profits from its core businesses, including consumer and commercial...