London is world's top banking centre

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LONDON has been fighting back as an international banking centre at the expense of Japan, according to an article to be published this week in the Bank of England's Quarterly Bulletin.

International lending from the United Kingdom increased by dollars 88bn in 1992, consolidating London's position as the biggest international financial centre in the world with a 16.5 per cent share of the market.

The problems of the Japanese economy, which have led its banks to run down their foreign lending, resulted in a dollars 59bn fall in the amount lent from Japan. The Japanese market share was 14.2 per cent last year, more than two percentage points behind Britain.

However, London's lead in international banking has become much more precarious in recent years. In 1987, before an explosion took place in Japanese overseas lending, the UK had 20.8 per cent of international banking markets and Japan trailed with 13.7 per cent.

Much of the growth of business in London was due to foreign and particularly French and German banks based here, while the international business done by Japanese bank branches in London declined.

The figures show France was highly successful as a banking centre last year, adding dollars 75bn of loans. This raised its market share more than one percentage point to 7.5 per cent.

The United States is the third biggest banking centre in the world, with 9 per cent of the market, but France is now close behind.

Germany is having difficulty gaining on the UK despite the much-vaunted attractions of Frankfurt as a banking centre.

Germany's share of the market slipped to 5.9 per cent, because lending grew by only dollars 6bn.

Measured by ownership rather than the banking centre from which business is done, Japanese banks remain the leaders, with 27.8 per cent of the market compared with 31.6 per cent in 1991. German, US and French banks were each above 10 per cent while British-owned banks accounted for 4.8 per cent.