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West LB set to scale back its UK presence as Wells departs

NICK WELLS, the head of mergers and acquisitions in London for WestLB, has left the bank, further underlining the German institution's retrenchment from front-line investment banking in the City.

Mr Wells, who has previously been a close adviser to Philip Green, the retail entrepreneur, and Lord Ashcroft, the former Tory party treasurer, is understood to be planning a new advisory business in the City.

Mr Wells oversaw the deal last year which saw WestLB's Panmure Gordon stockbroking business transferred to the ownership of Lazard. West LB has recently been focusing on unwinding some of the positions built up in the UK by its former star deal-maker Robin Saunders who left the bank after the refinancing of BoxClever, a TV rentals business, went wrong.

While Mr Wells has been at WestLB it has been adviser to Enic, the group that owns Tottenham Hotspur. Mr Wells, an Etonian, shot to notoriety as the young banker from County NatWest who led Blue Arrow's pounds 837m rights issue in 1987 to finance its bid for Manpower.

The rights issue turned into one of the City's most high-profile scandals, prompting a Department of Trade & Industry investigation and a trial during which Mr Wells stood with nine others accused of misleading the stock market. Mr Wells and his co-defendants were acquitted.

After the County NatWest debacle, Mr Wells went to BZW before becoming the head of corporate finance at Rea Brothers, the merchant bank subsequently bought by Close Brothers. It was at Rea Brothers that he advised Mr Green in the time before his recent rise to prominence.

Although WestLB will still have a global head of M&A in the form of Heiner Arnoldi, it is focussing on commercial banking services for its German client base. It has a London office arranging bonds and an equities business selling German equities into London and pan-European equities to German clients.

Yesterday it announced a refinancing of Whyte and Mackay, the Scotch whisky business. It has also sold investments in Pubmaster, Odeon cinemas and is in the process of selling Mid Kent Water.