Westdeutsche ready for London boost

JOHN EISENHAMMER

Financial Editor

Westdeutsche Landesbank, which is preparing to bolster its investment banking activities in London, yesterday reported an increase in first- half operating profit to DM1bn (pounds 442m) before risk provisions compared with DM944m, half of last year's total

A number of German banks traditionally compare first-half results with half the total of the previous year's results.

WestLB, a state-owned bank which is the third largest in Germany and has embarked on an aggressive strategy of expansion at home and abroad, said interim operating profit after risk provisions reached DM472m, compared with DM396m. Friedel Neuber, WestLB's chairman, said: "We can be satisfied with our results, because we have stabilised our earnings at a good level and have fully taken into account all recognisable risks in the half-year results."

WestLB, which has a strong position in Third World debt, is finalising plans for developing its investment banking operation in the City, West Merchant Bank. This will involve hiring several hundred people, notably as it builds up a securities presence. WestLB did look at Smith New Court during the recent takeover competition for the leading City broker, eventually clinched by Merrill Lynch of the US.

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