Panmure Gordon has been bought to plug the equities gap, which is the main weakness in WestLB's plans to build up a global investment banking presence through its London-based unit, West Merchant Bank.
"This is an important building block on which we hope to expand our European equities activities as well as looking to increasing in emerging markets," said Patrick Macdougall, chief executive of West Merchant Bank.
Deutsche Bank, the biggest of the German banks, was the first to target London as the base for its ambitions to become one of the world's leading investment banks by the end of the decade, centered on Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. Over the past year it has been hiring aggressively, notably expanding its securities business. Dresdner, Germany's number two, quickly followed suit, buying Kleinwort Benson last summer for pounds 1bn.
WestLB, a public sector bank with total assets of pounds 280bn, made plain last year its plans to build its global business around West Merchant Bank in London.
It first approached NationsBank last summer. "They convinced us that Panmure Gordon's capabilities fit more into their long-term strategy than into our own. Theirs is a European strategy, ours is much more North American," said Richard Roddey, head of NationsBank Europe.
There was speculation last night that Nationsbank, which is the third- largest in the US, was getting out of Panmure because the broking house complicated a separate acquisition plan that was more in line with its strategy. Mr Roddey said the disposal of Panmure "has no implications for Gartmore", the UK fund manager put up for sale by its French parent, Banque Indosuez, and which has a joint venture agreement with NationsBank. "We will continue to build our capital markets business in London," Mr Roddey said.
West Merchant Bank is about to start up its derivatives business with the team it hired last October in London and New York from Deutsche Morgan Grenfell.
It is also expected to announce shortly a senior individual hiring in the fixed-income business. The main priority with Panmure Gordon was to build up its European equities capability, and in particular business between Britain and Germany.
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