£42m Cazenove viewing its list of suitors

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The Independent Online

Cazenove, the broker to the Queen and a host of FTSE 100 companies, yesterday said it was still considering a number of takeover proposals from rivals.

Cazenove, the broker to the Queen and a host of FTSE 100 companies, yesterday said it was still considering a number of takeover proposals from rivals.

The move stoked speculation that the business, one of the oldest in the City, would end up being subsumed within a larger bank rather than pursuing its initial course of ending 180 years of partnership by floating on the stock market.

Cazenove has attracted the attention of UK and US financial institutions, with the American investment bank Lehman Brothers thought to be one of the most interested bidders for the British stockbroker.

JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche have also been linked to Cazenove. In the UK, senior executives at Barclays considered a bid for the business, which could be merged with its investment banking arm, Barclays Capital, though the bank is thought to have stepped back from making a serious offer.

Releasing annual results that showed a strong recovery due to improved stock market conditions, Cazenove said yesterday: "We are evaluating outline proposals which we have received from other firms. These are all being benchmarked against our existing strategy of remaining independent."

Robert Pickering, the chief executive of Cazenove, acknowledged the potential danger to Cazenove's distinctive culture involved in selling it to a much larger bank.

"We are not going to fracture what we currently have - what makes us different and special. That is a judgement that we have to make," he said.

Mr Pickering stressed that Cazenove was not being compelled into a sale. "We will not do anything from a defensive point of view. We are not being competed out of existence," he said. However, the growing prominence of the talks has prompted many City observers to believe that its most likely course of action is now a sale.

Cazenove should be in a strong bargaining position after yesterday's results, which showed pre-tax profits before execeptionals had jumped almost three-fold to £42m in the 12 months to 30 April. It said it had boosted revenues by 18 per cent while clamping down on costs.

Cazenove was valued at £760m in the most recent dealing in its shares earlier this year. However, the business is unlikely to sell itself for less than £1.1bn, the price at which institutions such as Standard Life and 3i bought into the firm in 2001.

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