ABN Amro denies interest in Bear Stearns

ABN Amro, the Dutch banking giant, has flatly denied reports it is in advanced talks to buy Bear Stearns, the pounds 3.8bn US investment bank.

"It's nonsense," said Jules Prast, ABN Amro's chief spokesman. "We are not in for US investment banks of this size. Big US investment banks wouldn't fit because, as we have always said, that is not the path we will take."

A newspaper report yesterday insisted a deal with Bear Stearns was expected "imminently" but Mr Prast said no talks had taken place.

While ABN Amro has made 20 acquisitions since its formation in 1990, its growth strategy in the US is to buy smaller, regional operations which can be integrated slowly. In the US, it has bought LaSalle, a branch network based in big US cities. Last year, it bought Chicago Corporation and Standard Federal Bancorporation, both medium-sized businesses.

Bear Stearns is known to be worried that it may lack the size to compete with rival US operations, many of whom are expanding rapidly to become global players.

City analysts believe a more likely candidate to buy Bear Stearns would be UBS, the Swiss bank formed from the merger of UBS and SBC. Another possibility is Deutsche Bank, the German private bank.

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