Profits up 25 per cent at Fleming

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The Independent Online
Robert Fleming, one the City's few remaining family-controlled investment businesses, yesterday sounded a defiantly independent note as it announced a 25 per cent rise in profits for last year.

William Garrett, chief executive, said: "Independence is the watchword around here. Most of our successful rivals around the world are independent, particularly the US investment banks."

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch were some of the bank's nearest competitors, he said.

There have been suggestions the family, which controls around a third of the shares, would like to sell. But Mr Garrett said: "The family's position is that they like things as they are."

There were no plans to sell out to a bigger group as other City merchant banks had done, including Kleinwort Benson, which was taken over by Dresdner Bank of Germany, or SG Warburg, swallowed up by Swiss Bank Corporation, Mr Garrett said. He was speaking as Fleming announced a bounce-back in pre-tax profits to pounds 168m for the year to March, up from pounds 134m the previous year, but not quite matching the pounds 172m reported in 1995. A 14 per cent rise in the dividend takes it to 25p a share for the year.

The results would have been a record, but for the scandal-hit Jardine Fleming fund management joint venture in Hong Kong. Fleming saw its share of profits slump from pounds 50.5m to pounds 37.7m after JF was forced to pay out pounds 12.4m to compensate investors after a fund manager at the group was found to have diverted deals for his own account.

The business had lost some customers, with funds under management dipping to just under $20bn (pounds 12bn) from a peak of around $22bn, but clients were coming back, Mr Garrett said.

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