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Tatas in queue to open UK bank account

London, Dec. 17 (PTI): After taking over steel giant Corus and emerging a front-runner for iconic car brands Jaguar and Land Rover in the UK, the Tatas are reportedly planning a bid for a British investment bank that was once its adviser.

According to media reports here, the Tata group is among the potential suitors for the over-100-year-old British investment banking firm Close Brothers.

Without naming its potential bidders, the bank said in a regulatory filing here that it has been approached by many parties.

Incidentally, Close Brothers was the Tata group’s adviser in its $53.4-million cash offer for Incat International in 2005. This was the first public offer for a UK firm by an Indian company and was the largest Indian acquisition in the European software and IT services space at that time.

“The board of Close Brothers announces that following the indicative offer from Cenkos on November 7, it has received a number of further approaches. The discussions with interested parties are at an early stage and there can be no certainty that they will lead to an offer,” Close Brothers said in its filing.

The Tatas are among various potential bidders such as private equity giant Blackstone and Japanese financial group Orix, according to media reports here. The Tatas are already looking to buy out US car maker Ford’s British luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover and had successfully completed their $11-billion acquisition of Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus earlier this year.

Founded by William Brooks Close, the services of Close Brothers include investment funds, wealth management, securities trading, corporate finance advice and lending. The investment bank was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1984. However, the merchant bank’s fortunes have taken a beating in the stock market, with shares declining as much as 30 per cent this year.

The Financial Times termed the emergence of Tata and Orix as potential bidders as a surprise, adding that “the group, which still styles itself ‘a merchant bank’, has a long history and a conservative reputation”.

“Romantics might even see a Japanese or Indian solution as consonant with the pioneering spirit of ‘WB’ — the bank’s founder, William Brooks Close — who built the firm on a combination of Iowan farm mortgages, Alaskan railway financing and personal contacts with England’s great and good,” the report noted.

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