Updated from 12:42 a.m. EDT

Barclays ( BCS) confirmed Monday it has held talks with interested parties for a potential sale of its exchange-traded-funds business and said it has had a "strong start" in 2009.

"Barclays businesses continue to perform well and have had a strong start to 2009," the British bank said in a statement Monday. Last week, U.S. banks Bank of America ( BAC)and Citigroup ( C) said they have seen their businesses improving.

Barclays said "no decision regarding the disposal of any business" has been taken by its board.

The bank was responding to a report from the Wall Street Journal that said Barclays was shopping its exchange-traded-funds business as it seeks to shore up capital.

The newspaper reported Barclays has hired J.P. Morgan Cazenove to help it sell the iShares business -- which is part of Barclays Global Investors, the bank's San Francisco-based asset-management arm. The business could go for 4 billion pounds ($5.6 billion), the Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. The business, however, could be sold for less because some analysts have valued all of Barclays Global Investors at about 5 billion pounds.

According to the Journal, investors have continued to pour cash into exchange-traded funds, which track indexes ranging from big-company U.S. stocks, to bonds, commodities and real estate. Barclays took in $56.3 billion in new assets in 2008, just shy of its 2007 total, giving it $254.7 billion in assets.

Barclays also said Monday it is talking with the U.K. government about participating in the government's asset protection scheme.

Barclays said its decision on whether to participate "will be based on the economic merits to shareholders of any such participation."

The Journal reported Barclays is trying to raise cash to avoid turning to the U.K. government for help. Analysts have said Barclays may have to raise money by selling assets or issuing shares. One option would be for the bank to issue shares to the U.K. government, which Barclays has said it wants to avoid in order to maintain commercial independence.

In its report, the newspaper said Barclays was debating whether it would take part in the U.K. government's asset-insurance plan. The plan would help Barclays limit future losses, but the cost to participate could deplete the bank's capital cushion.

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