The news emerged after a Citicorp executive leaked comments made by John Reed, Citicorp's chairman, at a three-day management retreat in Arizona. Mr Reed is understood to have told hundreds of senior managers that the bank had been attracted by a number of acquisition opportunities, including Standard Chartered.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Mr Reed is also understood to have hinted at some type of co-operation with Merrill Lynch, a top-tier US investment bank, although a Citicorp spokesman said yesterday the remarks were not made in reference to an "acquisition or combination".
Following the recent sharp fall in Standard's share price and media coverage of an informal merger approach from Barclays Bank, Paul Collins, Citicorp's vice-chairman, is reported to have telephoned senior Standard Chartered executives in London. Mr Collins is understood to have told Standard that, if it were considering merging with Barclays, to talk to Citicorp first. Standard Chartered executives told Mr Collins what they told Martin Taylor, Barclays' chief executive, namely that the bank was committed to an independent future.
A Standard Chartered spokesman declined to comment, saying the bank never discussed "market rumours". However, the bank is understood to have received numerous informal approaches in recent months, largely triggered by the slump in Standard's share price in the wake of the Asian turmoil. Standard Chartered is an international banking group with substantial interests in Asia, and its shares, along with those of HSBC, fell dramatically as the Far Eastern economic crisis unfurled in the autumn.
Standard's shares closed at 864p, up 4p.