WestLB joins rush to build up positions in the City

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The Independent Online
GERMANY's WestLB yesterday became the latest bank to announce plans to develop large investment banking headquarters in London.

WestLB, which owns West Merchant Bank and brokers Panmure Gordon, plans to consolidate its London operations by letting a new building being developed by property company Mepc. Mepc said it had pre-let the whole of its Woolgate Exchange site in the City to WestLB, which will occupy it on completion in early 2001.

The news came as Rabobank, a Dutch investment bank, gave a boost to employment prospects in the City by hiring 12 equity staff - including eight from UBS - and saying it would take on up to 75 more by the end of the year. The ex-UBS employees included Paul Deslandes, the former head of European equity trading at UBS.

Woolgate Exchange, on which WestLB has taken a 20-year lease, will contain three big dealing floors in 32,000 square metres of office space and will give an investment value of almost pounds 250m.

WestLB has gradually built up its presence in London, having bought Panmure Gordon in 1996. It now employs around 1,600 people in London.

Deutsche Bank's investment banking arm Deutsche Morgan Grenfell is also close to completing new headquarters in the City which will bring its operations together.

The Dutch financial giant ABN Amro is building new offices in Spitalfields, on the edge of the City, while several banks have opted to move to cheaper sites in London's Docklands.

French financial group Paribas has recently moved intomade-to-measure headquarters in Marylebone, west London.

Meanwhile, in New York shares in Chase Manhattan surged on rumours it could launch a takeover bid for Merrill Lynch, a rival bank. Chase announced plans for 4,500 redundancies on Tuesday.