Schroders trumpets its liberty

JOHN WILLCOCK

Financial Correspondent

Schroders, the merchant bank, yesterday trumpeted its determination to stay independent, against the recent trend of foreign acquisitions which has seen four City houses fall into overseas hands.

Win Bischoff, chief executive of Schroders, said the recent consolidation in the City was probably easing.

Mr Bischoff made his stand as shares in Schroders fell 68p to pounds 13.75 on dissappointing half year profits, but analysts shrugged this off as a "blip" and backed the management's independent strategy.

"In order to remain independent you need shareholders who will support you and a strategy which will deliver profits. We have both," said Mr Bischoff.

"We are becoming a rarer and rarer animal. People think that because four [houses] have gone all are going to succumb, but we don't think about a bid."

The chief executive stressed that the family interests, led by Bruno Schroder, which own 40 per cent of the bank are "rock hard" behind the management.

Neither was Schroders thinking of buying City brokers Cazenove, as some market rumours had suggested. A spokesman said: "It would not currently fit with our strategy."

Mr Bishcoff said the first quarter had been "difficult, but we have been encouraged by the pick up in the markets since the end of March. The third quarter has been good so far."

The City had been expecting around pounds 90m pre-tax profits for the six months to 30 June 1995, whereas Schroders came in with pounds 85.6m against pounds 103.2m last time.

Mr Bischoff stressed that much of the drop was due to the cost of integrating Wertheim Schroder, the New York securities subsidiary. Schroders now owns all of Wertheim, having bought the last stake last year.

Funds under management rose to pounds 63.8bn in the first half of the year from pounds 57.6bn and pre-tax profit from the business also rose, to pounds 43.9m from pounds 40.6m a year earlier.

Gains at the funds division offset some of the weaker performance of Schroders' merchant banking business where pre-tax profit fell sharply to pounds 41.7m from pounds 62.6m.

Mr Bischoff said that on a like-for-like basis, excluding the Wertheim integration costs, staff costs rose by 14 per cent. This represented a 6 per cent rise in staff numbers, divided equally between the merchant bank and fund management side.

In the past 18 months staff numbers had grown by 600 to 4,500, he said.

The chief executive was confident that corporate finance activity would be a major business this year.

Schroders represented both SG Warburg and Kleinwort Benson in their recent sales talks, and is also heavily involved in the electricity industry.

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