Warburg aims to halt defections

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SG Warburg is planning to pay big bonuses to top staff in order to stem top-level defections, according to City sources.

The suggestion follows the departure of the joint heads of equity trading last week, Maurice Thompson and Michael Cohrs, to arch rival Morgan Grenfell, owned by Deutsche Bank.

Half a dozen of the equities team followed them, in what many saw as the final blow to Lord Cairns, who stepped down as chief executive on Monday.

The City has been swept with gossip about further defections. One source suggested that the trading warning which accompanied Lord Cairns' resignation was at least in part aimed at allowing Warburg to divert significant funds to bonuses.

Warburg does not break down the precise figures it pays as bonuses. Each year it pays a group bonus and individual performance-related payments.

In the bumper year to March 1994 Warburg increased its pay bill, including bonuses, by 44 per cent. It paid £422.7m in wages and salaries compared to £294.1m the year before.

A Warburg spokesman said the subject of bonuses would not be discussed with employees until the end of April.

"It's a little early for us to say `no comment'," he added.

Philip Gibbs, an analyst with BZW, has reduced his forecast in the wake of Lord Cairns' resignation. Mr Gibbs forecasts that group pre-tax profits will fall from £297m to £116m, with £117m coming from the 75 per cent stake in Mercury Asset Management.