NatWest took look at Kidder but held fire

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NATIONAL Westminster Bank took a detailed look at Kidder Peabody before control of the troubled US investment bank was bought by PaineWebber for less than dollars 90m, writes Peter Rodgers.

The British bank's interest in Kidder prompted speculation yesterday that it is on the takeover trail in New York and could have a big acquisition in mind.

But NatWest played down its interest, confirming that it had looked at details of Kidder but denying that it had made an offer or entered into negotiations.

A spokeswoman said: 'We looked at the documents but we never bid for it. We look at a lot of things. People bring them to our attention all the time.'

NatWest Markets, the investment banking arm of the group, has a full-time team looking at acquisitions, she said.

Kidder Peabody is almost the size of NatWest Markets, which employs about 6,000 people, and any decision to buy a New York investment bank of that size would have had to be taken at group level.

NatWest made clear that in any event it would only have been interested in buying bits of the Kidder operation, which was put up for sale by its owner, General Electric.

NatWest Markets, which employs about 1,000 people in the US, has built up its equities team to the largest foreign-owned operation in New York, partly by hiring staff from Drexel Burnham Lambert, the investment bank that went bust in 1990.

Businesses include securities, treasury operations, capital markets and corporate banking. They are separate from NatWest Bancorp, the New Jersey-based retail banking subsidiary.