ABN Amro leads field in pounds 1bn pursuit of NatWest's Gartmore arm

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The Independent Online
ABN AMRO, the Dutch banking giant, and Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment bank, are understood to be leading the field in the bidding for Gartmore, National Westminster Bank's asset management business.

Gartmore, which has pounds 50bn of assets under management, is being sold by the high-street clearer in an attempt to fend off hostile bids from Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Scotland. Analysts have pencilled in a price tag of about pounds 1bn.

Bankers involved with the sale believe that Credit Suisse, the Swiss bank, is also a strong contender. By coincidence, Credit Suisse First Boston, its investment banking arm, is one of Bank of Scotland's advisers.

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, the US investment bank handling the sale, sent out the detailed sales memorandum to about 20 prospective buyers at the weekend.

NatWest has made it clear it would prefer a buyer with no extensive UK asset management operations to avoid extensive job losses. It has asked the three contenders back for more detailed talks. This is a blow to Abbey National, which is also keen to land Gartmore.

Goldman Sachs has identified "asset gathering" as a key area for expansion after its flotation this year. Sources say it was one of the unsuccessful bidders for M&G, which was sold to Prudential, the life insurance group.

David Viniar, Goldman's chief financial officer, yesterday refused to comment specifically on the firm's interest in Gartmore, but restated the firm's commitment to grow asset management faster than other areas. ABN Amro has publicly confirmed interest in Gartmore.

According to the sales memorandum, NatWest has left open the issue of whether its unit trust and life businesses are included in the sale.

Commerzbank, a possible buyer for Greenwich NatWest, the bond broking and derivatives business, is understood to have decided against tabling a bid.

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