Schroders keen on Asia despite losses

WIN BISCHOFF, chairman of Schroders, the blue-chip City merchant bank, is eyeing acquisition opportunities in Asia despite having to raise provisions for Asian bad debt by pounds 35m in the first half.

Unveiling a 24 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to pounds 141m in the six months to the end of June, Mr Bischoff said that the bank was committed to pursue its strategy of cautious expansion despite the shake-out which has inevitably overshadowed these results.

"We think the markets are slowing down but we don't see them collapsing," he said. "We think there are opportunities of interesting transactions. We would hope given our knowledge of Asia to take advantage of them."

The bank's exposure to Russia and Latin America are negligible, although Mr Bischoff admitted that the market turbulence was bound to have a psychological effect on clients' willingness to do business.

Schroders is ready to raise provisions further in the second half if conditions continue to deteriorate.

The bank, whose shares have been badly hit on recent weeks in anticipation of a big Asia hit, saw its stock fall another 41p to 999p yesterday.

Investment banking was the fast-growing area in the first half. Profits increased 45 per cent to pounds 85.3m.

Asset management, where funds under management rose to pounds 117bn from pounds 107bn at the end of last year, fared less well. Profits rose 12 per cent to pounds 81m.

Schroders investment managers had seen performance suffer as a result of having taken a more bearish stance earlier this year.

However, Mr Bischoff said the firm believed that stance would be borne out of time as markets entered a more cautious phase.