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Robert Fleming's Wellcome boost

ROBERT FLEMING Holdings, the London-based private merchant banking group, yesterday announced pre-tax profits up from pounds 76.6m to pounds 101.6m after a good year in the Far East and big fees from the Wellcome shares sale, writes John Willcock.

John Manser, group chief executive, said: 'This has been a good year for Fleming and for the first time our profits have exceeded pounds 100m. This makes us the second biggest independent UK merchant bank, behind Warburgs and before Schroders, for the second year running.'

The private group is still not disclosing inner reserves, but will do so from next year on. Mr Manser said: 'Excellent progress has been made in our investment banking, securities and treasury operations. Undoubtedly the highlight of the year was our role as global co-ordinator for the pounds 2.3bn sale by the Wellcome Trust of shares in Wellcome plc.' The sale was the biggest non-privatisation shares sale, but Fleming would not say how much it earned in fees except that they were 'substantial'.

The final dividend was 26p, raising the total for the year from 33p to 38p. During the year shareholders' funds rose by 22 per cent from pounds 361m to pounds 441m or pounds 9.29 per share.

Until 15 years ago Fleming made almost all its profits from asset management, and although it has since expanded into other areas investment management remains central. Funds under management during the year rose by a fifth to pounds 33.3bn, due to the devaluation of the pound, new business and growth in the US and Far Eastern retail business.

Mr Manser added: 'Against a background of sharply varying performances in the financial markets of the Asia Pacific region, Jardine Fleming, which is jointly owned by Fleming and Jardine Matheson, achieved a pre-tax profit of dollars 93m in 1992.'