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Close Brothers' shares dive 12%

SHARES IN Close Brothers dived nearly 12 per cent yesterday, writes Andrew Garfield, after chief executive Rod Kent warned of a "challenging" year ahead for the investment banking group whose clients include Henlys, the builder, and Dan Wagner's information group MAID.

Close Brothers' business is exclusively domestic. But despite escaping the problems in Asia and Russia, Close Brothers has seen signs of a slowdown in all business since its July year-end and is taking a cautious view of the year ahead.

"Most slowdowns are deeper and last longer than people think at first," said Mr Kent. "We are at the beginning of a very uncertain period."

Close Brothers will be looking carefully at which businesses it wants to be in. But Mr Kent added that there may be opportunities for selective acquisitions, particularly in asset management. "Historically, we get active in recessions," he said.

Profits in the year to the end of July increased 26 per cent to pounds 69.6m, the 23rd successive year of profits growth. Winterflood Securities enjoyed a 39 per cent jump in profits, and merchant banking reported a 31 per cent increase. Close acted in 40 transactions to a value of pounds 3bn.