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Winterflood set to extend into European securities

WINTERFLOOD SECURITIES is planning to start offering dealing services in Continental European securities following the success of its move into retail gilt market-making earlier this year.

Rod Kent, chief executive of Close Brothers, the independent investment bank, that owns Winterflood, said that the firm was planning to take advantage of its recent acquisitions of advisory businesses in France and Germany to build a dealing business in large as well as small and medium-sized corporates. It would target private clients who are ill-served by the bigger firms.

"Dealing in large caps but in the small parcels private clients want is not as easy as you think," Mr Kent said.

A strong rebound in Winterflood in the second half was one of the key contributors to the 10 per cent rise in pre-tax profits at Close for the year overall. These were up to pounds 76.3m from pounds 69.6m last year.

Mr Kent said the figures, while in line with more recent market forecasts, were much better than had been feared earlier in the year when in the wake of the stock markets crash of October 1998, the group believed that it would have been lucky to get away with profits flat at the end of the year. The shares fell 12.5p to 757p.

Dealing income rose by 21 per cent to pounds 67m thanks to a revival of activity in the UK smaller companies sector, with the second half providing two- thirds of the total. Fees and commission income was also up reflecting a record second-half on the advisory side.

The past few months have seen a flurry of activity with Close acquiring its smaller rival Rea Brothers in a pounds 45m deal which doubles the group's funds under management.

The group has also acquired Warrior, a business which supplies financial services to the armed forces overseas, and has expanded Prompt, its insurance lending operation, to finance personal lines business.

Mr Kent said: "We are upbeat not just about the short-term but also about the fact that we have planted some good saplings for the future."