The UK-based investment bank Close Brothers has emerged as a frontrunner for private bank Kleinwort Benson, being sold by German banking giant Commerzbank AG.
As part of its greater plans to refocus on its home market, Commerzbank has put up Kleinwort Benson on sale, and according to media, Close Brothers is believed to be one of the 20 odd bidders that has made it through to the second round. The were more than 10 parties in the first round of the auction.
Reports say that former Kleinwort banker Simon Robertson, chairman of Rolls Royce, is also in the fray, backing a rival bid by the management of the bank.
Robertson is leading a consortium of London corporate figures includes former HSBC CEO, Sir John Bond, who is now the Vodafone chairman, in a bid for Kleinwort Benson, which is reported to have held parallel talks with private equity firms, including Blackstone, for a management buyout after Commerzbank, Germany's second-biggest bank, was ordered by the European Commission to sell off several assets after it took $26 billion of state aid from the German government.
Goldman Sachs, Kleinwort's adviser, which is reported to have received around 10 expressions of interest, is holding an auction for the highest bid.
For Close Brothers, the move for Kleinwort figures as part of chief executive Preben Prebensen's effort to reshape the business since taking over as chief executive in April.
As part of his review of the business, Prebensen has sold Close Brothers' corporate finance advisory arm to Daiwa Securities and spun off a private equity business in order to focus on strengthening the group's private banking operations.
He is believed to be looking at ways to cross-sell products between the group's wealth management business and its bank, which specialises in lending to small businesses.