Nomura in talks to buy broker Collins Stewart

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The Independent Online

Nomura, the Japanese bank, has made a preliminary takeover approach for the London-listed broker Collins Stewart.

The talks are at an early stage, and Collins Stewart is believed to have made it clear it will only be interested if a bid is made at a substantial premium to the current share price, which values the group at a little under 450m.

A statement confirming the talks will be made to the London Stock Exchange this morning. However, the broker was yesterday contemplating calling off any negotiations immediately, and may today announce that the talks are over. The current management led by chief executive Joel Plasco are believed to be confident of delivering long-term value to shareholders, and are wary of short-term opportunistic bids looking to capitalise on the current market turmoil.

Since demerging from the inter-broker dealer Tullett Prebon a year ago, shares in Collins Stewart hit highs of more than 270p this year, before falling more than 40 per cent to hit lows of 155p this month. The stock bounced more than 8 per cent on Friday as rumours of an approach from a Japanese suitor leaked into the market.

Talks with Nomura took place via Collins Stewart's boutique investment banking arm, Hawkpoint, which it bought last year. The Japanese bank is believed to be interested in the London-based company due to its growing global presence. Collins Stewart employs 170 staff in New York, and has also been expanding in India and South-east Asia.

Collins Stewart's chairman, Terry Smith, who has been with the company for more than 10 years, and who owns more than 3.5 per cent of its equity, is believed to be willing to open the books to any serious bidders for the company, but is not actively looking for a buyer.

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