Lazard 'appoints Goldman Sachs to oversee possible group float worth £1.7bn'

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The Independent Online

Lazard, the world's largest independent investment bank, has appointed Goldman Sachs to advise on a possible £1.7bn initial public offering, or potential spin-off of its asset management or UK broking arms, it has been reported.

Lazard, the world's largest independent investment bank, has appointed Goldman Sachs to advise on a possible £1.7bn initial public offering, or potential spin-off of its asset management or UK broking arms, it has been reported.

The bank, which has been reviewing its options since the end of 2002, is believed to be keen to raise capital to expand its capital markets operation, and has been inundated with offers of advice from its larger rivals in recent months.

News of the apparent decision to finally appoint an adviser was revealed in The Wall Street Journal yesterday, which asserted that the bank may now be favouring the idea of an overall group float in an attempt to fend off takeover bids from a larger commercial bank.

However, the group has also been reported in recent months to be considering the possible flotation of its asset management arm, or its UK broking business, Panmure, which it acquired from West LB earlier this year.

Although the market for IPOs has been less appealing in recent months, Lazard is believed to have been encouraged by the strong start which was made by Greenaway, a US investment banking boutique which floated on the New York Stock Exchange in May, raising $87m (£48m).

Bruce Wasserstein, the Wall Street deal maker who took the helm at Lazard in 2002, is understood to be keen on a sale or float to raise more capital. He has been aggressively buying in talent since his appointment in a move that has brought him into conflict with Lazard's long-standing chairman, Michel David-Weill.

Lazard refused to comment on the possibility of a float, or on the appointment of any adviser.

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