Hichens, Harrison & Co, the City of London's oldest active stockbroker, is in talks to be taken over by an Indian financial group backed by two billionaire brothers in a deal worth almost £50m.
Hichens, which has been operating in London since 1803, yesterday confirmed it was in negotiations with Religare Enterprises, a financial services group based in New Delhi, over a possible cash offer worth 285p per share.
The two companies have been in talks for the past two months, although a spokesman for Hichens stressed that there was no certainty an offer would be made.
Religare is backed by Malvinder and Shivinder Singh. Malvinder Singh is also chief executive of the generic pharmaceuticals giant Ranbaxy Laboratories.
One senior manager at a rival broker said: "Hichens is a grand old name in the stockbroking world, but they are pretty small. This might well be seen by the Indian company as a cheap way to gain access to the UK market." Hichens was admitted to the Alternative Investment Market in May 2005 and said recently it expects solid returns from its focus on emerging markets business. The broker has said it was planning to open an office in India in 2008 after already launching sites in Qatar and Singapore.
The group has a 30-page history on its website, which opens: "No stockbroking firm has previously survived 200 years in almost its original format and few, if any, will do so in future because of the rapidly changing corporate structures."