St. James's Place close to buy Asia's Henley Group

By Nicel Jane Avellana

Feb 25, 2014 12:40 PM EST

After Lloyds Banking Group offloaded its shares in St. James's Place last year, the UK-based investment manager intends to celebrate its independence with a purchase in Asia, Reuters reported.

St. James's Place Chief Executive Officer David Bellamy said they were already in the advanced stage of their purchase of the advisory business Henley Group. The latter has 4,000 expatriate customers in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai and manages £400 million or $665 million, the report said.

Although Bellamy did not reveal the financial details about the deal, he told Reuters, "It's near completion though there are different regulators to take through the process." He added that the acquisition was a cautious move in a potential long-term expansion abroad. If its venture in Asia would succeed, St. James Place could also set its sights in other regions like the Middle East where a huge population of British expatriates exist, the report said.

Bellamy said, "This is the start of something. We are deliberately taking a step, but gently, gently. There might be some unforeseen hurdles which might slow us down. On the other hand, if it goes really well, who knows?"

St. James's Place caters to wealthy British clients, selling them investments. It chooses external managers to manage a wide variety of mutual funds. Up until last year, Lloyds owned 60% of the investment manager. Last year, the bank began divesting its shares until it sold its remaining ownership in December, the report said.

The acquisition announcement came after the company posted robust annual results. Its earnings were strong and increased last year's dividend by 50%. The company also hopes to increase the dividend by 30% to 40% this year.

Reuters quoted Shore Capital Stockbrokers which said in a note, "An excellent set of final results for 2013, with each of the key embedded value metrics close to or ahead of our forecasts."

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