Lehman targets Asia expansion

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Lehman Brothers intends to increase headcount in Asia by 20% this year and has acquired a small Australian brokerage as part of that expansion.

The US investment bank's acquisition of Grange Securities marks Lehman's first move into the Australian market. The firms did not disclose the value of the deal but Reuters said the deal was worth about AU$120m (€73m).

Speaking to reporters in Sydney, Lehman Asia's chief executive Jesse Bhattal reportedly said: "This acquisition is about setting up a beach-head and we will play in the next five years or so a dominant role in expanding that product offering."

Bhattal said the investment bank would increase headcount in Asia by 20% this year and would grow aggressively in the region through organic growth and acquisitions.

Lehman intends to expand Grange's fixed income, wealth management and investment banking businesses in a bid to become a top-five player in Australia. Grange has 110 staff across the country.

Grange managing director Glenn Willis will take over as Lehman's country head in Australia. Ben Harding, a senior executive in Lehman's Asian business, will be chief operating officer at Grange.

Richard Fuld, chairman and chief executive of Lehman Brothers, said last week he wants the US bank to boost its international presence as part of a bid to double the bank's share price.

Lehman earned a third of its revenues last year from outside the US. Fuld said it could improve its results in the UK, Russia and eastern Europe and was only scratching the surface in Asia, where it was focusing on new business in Korea, Japan and China.

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