NatWest shapes up $300m bid for Wall Street broker

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The Independent Online
Speculation was growing on Wall Street last night that National Westminster is searching to expand its US share dealing operations with the purchase of Oppenheimer and Co, the 30th largest brokerage house in America.

Lord Alexander, NatWest chairman is already widely believed to stand ready to offer substantial inducements to any staff of Barings, as part of its expansion plans.

In America, the British bank was rumoured to be close to paying $300 million for the American firm, which has recently embarked on a pruning of staff and its operations in spite of good profits in 1994.

"If the price is right it could happen" commented Michael Lipper, of Lipper Analytical, which specialises on monitoring the fortunes of companies on Wall Street. "The management of Oppenheimer is of an age when they might want an ultimate sale and Natwest certainly have been trying to expand".

Neither Oppenheimer - which has a staff of about 2,800 concentrating on securities brokerage, investment banking and insurance - nor NatWest in the US would comment on the speculation. A large number of US NatWest staff came from the now defunct Drexel Burnham Lambert, which traditionally had close ties with Oppenheimer.

The Dutch financial group ING, which yesterday sealed its purchase of Barings Brothers, was reported to be in negotiations to buy Oppenheimers but pulled out of the talks because it considered the price too high.