Kleinwort lifts payout after turnaround: 'Good feeling of confidence' running through bank, reports chairman

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KLEINWORT BENSON, the merchant bank, emerged from several years of underperformance by doubling its profits in 1993 to pounds 112m on the back of buoyant dealing profits and good earnings in a dull corporate finance market.

The bank paid an increased dividend for the first time since 1990, up 15.6 per cent to 18.5p.

Lord Rockley, chairman, said the turnaround was not just due to active securities markets. Every division contributed more than it did in the previous year, and there was enormous potential for this year.

'There is a very good feeling of confidence running through the organisation,' he went on. 'We have had a dose of adrenalin.'

Ignoring a pounds 9.2m gain on the sale of the gold bullion broker Sharps Pixley to Deutsche Bank, profits still rose 127 per cent, giving a 26 per cent return on capital.

Jonathan Agnew was ousted as chief executive last May after a long period of management in-fighting. The bank dispensed with the role altogether, with David Clementi and Nicholas Redmayne becoming joint heads of investment banking.

Fees and commissions rose by 67 per cent over 1992 to pounds 239m. This was even faster than dealing income, which went up 59 per cent to pounds 121m. Net interest income fell 12 per cent to pounds 78m, mostly due to falling global lending rates.

Despite British takeover activity hitting a low in 1993, Kleinwort won the top spot in the takeover league. It advised on deals such as Central Television's agreed pounds 723m deal with Carlton Communications and American Brands' pounds 224m takeover of Invergordon Distillers via Whyte & Mackay.

This year Kleinwort advised British Aerospace on the sale of Rover cars to BMW and Ladbroke on its joint bid to operate the national lottery. It has also done well out of privatisations in Italy, Argentina, Chile and India.

While investment banking profits rose by 290 per cent to pounds 76m, investment management lagged with only 3 per cent growth to pounds 26m. Lord Rockley said the bank aimed to increase its fund management activities in the US and to pursue a series of joint ventures in Japan and India.

Lord Rockley said staff bonuses payable in March would reflect the bank's performance but would not be on the scale of recent payments by some American banks.

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