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Financial Services - 2002






















Ward Evans Corporate of Leeds has undergone a management buy-out backed by Giles Insurance Brokers, and the two remaining businesses - One Direct Solutions and Ward Evans Financial - are also expected to be sold off.

Capita is planning to acquire Aurora, the company established to settle the outstanding business of Independent Insurance, for undisclosed terms.

Numerica has acquired Munro-Greenhalgh, the Manchester-based independent financial adviser, for £1m.

Provident Financial has acquired Yes Car Credit, the car finance company with 34,000 low-income customers, from Candover for up to £141m.

Christie Group has acquired Orridge, the retail stocktaking company, for £0.6m.

Britannia Building Society is to create 100 new jobs in Staffordshire, following a rise in demand for mortgage products.

Berkeley Berry Birch has acquired Weston Financial Group, the independent financial adviser with 63 consultants and eight branches, for an initial £1.9m.

Baker Tilly is to relocate its West Yorkshire accountancy operations and 100 staff to a new 12,000 sq ft office at the Whitehall II development in Leeds city centre in January.

Man is to expand into private equity by taking control of Westport and acquiring a 25% stake in Parallel Ventures, in a deal worth less than £10m.

NM Rothschild has sold its asset management business to the Insight Investment division of HBOS for £61m.

Hazell Carr is to open a new office in Stirling in January to help insurance firms with their pension reviews, with the creation of 100 jobs.

Capita Group has acquired Cost Auditing, the London-based provider of legal cost auditing services for the insurance sector, for up to £7.9m.

Its4me is planning to relocate its online insurance intermediary business to larger offices in Norwich, and aims to double the workforce to 80 over the next year.

Durlacher has sold its ShareCast online research service to Digital Look, in order to focus on stockbroking.

HBOS is seeking partners to expand its Intelligent Finance online banking business into continental Europe and the US.

HSBC is planning to move out of five locations in the West End of London next year, in order to relocate to new offices in St James's Street.

Vantis has acquired the non-audit business of London-based Crompton & Sherling for up to £0.6m.

Aegon UK is to acquire a 60% stake in Positive Solutions, the Newcastle-based financial adviser with 10 business centres, for undisclosed terms.

Misys, the financial services software company, has announced plans to set up a £6.5m compliance centre in India next year.

Sky Capital is to acquire Everett Financial, the London-based private client stockbroker, for £1.6m.

Royal & Sun Alliance is to sell its Securitas subsidiary in Germany to Baloise of Switzerland for up to £58m.

Millfield is planning to expand its financial advisory business with the acquisition of Sureline of Hertford and Contemporary Life of London.

Gordons Cranswick is to merge with Sugden Spencer of Bradford, creating a combined Yorkshire-based law firm with more than 200 staff.

HSBC is to acquire Household International, the US consumer finance company, for £8.6bn.

Prudential is to sell its German life insurance business to Canada Life for £82m.

Park Group has acquired Cheshire Securities, the Stockport-based credit services company, for £1.2m, taking its network of branches to 29.

Skipton Building Society has acquired a majority stake in Private Health Partnership, the Otley-based private health insurance broker, for £3.4m.

Leeds & Holbeck Building Society is setting up a branch in Gibraltar, and further expansion into continental Europe is expected to follow.

Green Flag is to create more than 300 jobs at a new office at Cavern Court in Liverpool, in order to process technical insurance claims.

Penna Consulting has acquired Nethouse Trading and its subsidiary The Resourcing Centre for about £0.5m, in order to expand its recruitment outsourcing business.

Secure Trust Banking is to acquire Old Mutual Securities, the provider of institutional stockbroking and corporate finance services, for up to £12m.

Royal & Sun Alliance is to expand its MoreThan insurance call centre in Sunderland, with the creation of 60 jobs before the end of the year.

Close Brothers is to expand its investment banking operations in the US by forming strategic alliances with Harris Williams and Chanin Capital Partners.

Amvescap is to acquire Whitehall Asset Management, the private wealth manager, from the Industrial Bank of Japan for undisclosed terms.

Abbey National is to create 40 new jobs at its banking call centre in Gateshead, in order to improve customer service levels.

Aviva is considering plans to open a Norwich Union insurance call centre in Sheffield with the creation of up to 700 jobs, as part of an ongoing review of its nationwide property portfolio.

Hiscox is to acquire Eldon Capital, the fund manager that focuses on investment in the financial sector.

Man Group has acquired GNI, the London-based futures broker with more than 500 staff, from Old Mutual for £100m.

Aviva is planning to relocate 750 Norwich Union insurance staff to a new multi-million pound call centre in Norfolk, and sites are being considered at Thorpe and Costessey.

Cattles has acquired the motor finance loan portfolio of Associates Capital for £56m and the Dial4aloan consumer credit business for £15m, funded by a £80m share placing.

Guinness Peat, the fund management group, has agreed to a reverse takeover by Brunel Holdings, which will involve Brunel demerging its existing engineering operations.

Northern Rock, the mortgage bank, is to spend an additional £40m on the expansion of its offices in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in order to cope with the 200 new staff taken on each year.

Ryecroft Glenton and Rainbow Gillespie are to merge to form a combined Newcastle-based accountancy practice with 90 staff and 18 partners.

Dipford Group has acquired Redwoods, the business transfer agency with ten regional offices, in a £1.3m deal, and now plans to develop a national network of agents for the sale and purchase of smaller businesses.

James Brearley & Sons is planning to expand its Lancashire-based stockbroking business into Yorkshire with the opening of a new office by the end of the year.

Park Row has sold its Global Risk Management Services division to Fimalac of France for undisclosed terms, in order to focus on its core financial advisory business.

Tenon has acquired HL Bloom, the Glasgow-based provider of taxation and insolvency services with 20 staff, for £0.6m.

Cardpoint has acquired ATM Express, the cash machine operator trading as Green Machine, for £1.3m.

Barclays is to create 500 jobs at its banking call centre in Sunderland this year.

Royal Bank of Scotland has acquired Commonwealth Bancorp of Pennsylvania for £290m, in order to expand its US-based Citizens division.

Bradford & Bingley is to expand its mortgage book by acquiring about 6,000 home loans with a value of £650m from General Motors Acceptance Corporation.

Axa Insurance is to recruit 45 additional sales advisers at its office in Darlington.

Brit Insurance is to raise £204m in a share placing to fund the expansion of its business outside Lloyd's of London, including a move into the underwriting of motor insurance.

Laing & Cruickshank is setting up an investment office in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with staff previously employed by Merrill Lynch.

CSS Stellar has acquired JR Financial Services of London, in order to establish a new business supplying specialist financial services to high net worth individuals.

Royal Bank of Scotland has won planning permission to build a new headquarters on the 78-acre Gogarburn site in Edinburgh, and its local workforce is expected to rise from 6,800 to more than 8,000.

Alexander Forbes is to acquire Schroder Pensions Group, the provider of pension administration services, for up to £22m, in partnership with Lane Clark & Peacock.

Wesleyan is to acquire the financial services business of the British Medical Association, which provides financial advice and insurance to doctors, for undisclosed terms.

Aviva is to sell its general insurance business in Pakistan to New Jubilee Insurance, while its 63% stake in the Commercial Union Life Assurance Company of Pakistan is being sold to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development.

Prudential has acquired Good Morning Investment Trust Management of South Korea for £14m.

MBNA is to create a further 500 jobs at call centres in Chester, Ireland and Spain this year, following the acquisition of the Alliance & Leicester credit card operation.

Newcastle Building Society is to create 40 jobs for financial consultants, having decided to establish its own in-house financial services arm to provide investment advice to customers.

Insure-Shop has acquired Ilkeston-based Williams Financial Services, taking the number of its branches in the Midlands to 19.

Hiscox is raising £110m in a rights issue to support the expansion of its insurance business.

Acxiom is to create more than 60 jobs at its 2Touch call centre in Sunderland, having won a new telesales contract from Stonebridge International Insurance.

Alchemy Partners is backing plans for a management buy-out of MMS International, the provider of information on fixed income and foreign exchange markets with more than 100 staff, from Standard & Poor's.

Barclays Private Clients International is to relocate its offshore headquarters to Douglas on the Isle of Man, with the creation of 90 jobs.

Zurich Financial Services is to sell Gresham, its private equity business with 32 staff, to management for undisclosed terms.

Green Flag is to set up a new motor claims centre in Liverpool this year, with the creation of 70 jobs, and a number of potential sites are being considered.

Royal Bank of Scotland has acquired Stewart Ivory Wealth Management for undisclosed terms, in order to expand its Adam & Co private banking business.

Countrywide Assured is to acquire a chain of 104 estate agency branches from Friends Provident for £21m, and has also agreed a £275m 15-year deal to sell Friends Provident life policies through its network.

Aegon has acquired Momentum Financial Services, the Hampshire-based firm of independent financial advisers with nine offices, for undisclosed terms.

BWD Securities has acquired Connaught St Michaels, the Luton-based provider of share registration services, as well as CI Registrars and a 50% stake in Melton Registrars, for up to £4.4m.

Churchill Insurance is creating 120 new jobs at its insurance call centre in Stockton, including 30 homeworkers.

Marks & Spencer is considering plans to set up a bank, in order to add deposit accounts to its range of financial services.

Coutts is planning a £4m expansion of its network of 15 private bank branches outside London, including a new office in Liverpool and 29 new jobs.

Aegon of the Netherlands has acquired the independent advisory operations of Advisory & Brokerage Services, the London-based firm with 65 staff.

Numerica has acquired Chantrey Vellacott DFK's Thames Valley business recovery practice, which is based in Marlow, for £1.1m.

Smith & Williamson, the accountancy and fund management company, is to merge with stockbroker NCL.

Rowan Simmons, the relocation services company, has been acquired by Sirvir of the US for an undisclosed sum thought to be about £7m.

Park Group has acquired Cable Cashpoint, the cheque cashing business, and its revolving credit affiliate Cash Reserve, from Dundee-based Robert Cable & Co for £0.7m.

Royal & Sun Alliance is to sell its Bristol-based group risk protection business to Canada Life for £60m, which will involve the transfer of about 200 staff.

Graphite Capital has acquired a 62% stake in PIFC, the pensions advisory firm, for £17m, in order to benefit from the expected rise in demand for pensions advice as more companies look for alternatives to final salary-type pension schemes.

Alliance & Leicester has sold its credit card business to MBNA of the US for £225m, but will continue to sell cards in an outsourcing arrangement with MBNA.

Social Security Agency has announced plans to set up a new pension claims centre in Londonderry, with the creation of 190 jobs.

West Bromwich Building Society is to create 300 jobs over the next five years, due to rising demand for its telephone and internet-based services, and new branches may be opened in towns such as Tamworth, Cannock, Lichfield, Telford and Worcester.

Auto Credit Trust is planning to acquire Direct Car Finance, the provider of car loans to people with poor credit ratings, for about £10m.

Travelex is planning to set up a money transfer service in the US to enable immigrant workers from Latin America to send their wages home.

Kensington Group is to acquire The Mortgage Lender, the Southampton-based mortgage intermediary with 139 staff, for £15m.

Inter-Alliance is planning to acquire HST, the financial services company, for £5.5m.

Rathbones, the Liverpool-based fund management company, has acquired five London-based companies for a total £11m - Alphabay, Artcrown, Cedarpower, Meronbrook and Skychart.

Royal Bank of Scotland is selling 50% of its NatWest Stockbrokers division to TD Waterhouse for about £30m, and the joint venture will then outsource its operations to TDW.

Aviva is to sell its Spanish general insurance business to Groupama of France for £157m.

Marsh & McLennan is to set up a 147,000 sq ft headquarters for its Mercer Human Resources subsidiary at the K2 building in London's St Katharine Docks.

Bank Eurohypo is to set up a 14,000 sq ft headquarters for its mortgage banking business at 90 Long Acre in London.

Legal & General is to sell Legal & General Bank and Legal & General Mortgage Services to Northern Rock for £131m, as part of a strategy to focus on long-term savings, protection and general insurance.

Numerica is to acquire the non-audit businesses of Southampton-based accountancy firm Burnett Swayne for £6m, in order to create a southern regional hub for its growing business.

Zurich Warranty Management Services is creating 30 telemarketing jobs at its office in Prestatyn.

BDML Connect is creating 60 additional jobs at its insurance call centre in Portsmouth.

Ulster Bank has sold Cunningham Coates, the Belfast-based stockbroking firm with 77 staff, to London-based asset management company NCL for undisclosed terms.

Claims Direct has raised £2.9m from the sale of three non-trading subsidiaries - Rosie One, Towerfocus and Ropespring.

ARC Risk Management, the provider of security risk management and training to individuals and companies, is being acquired by Perthshire Leisure for £0.5m.

Millfield has raised £16m in a share placing to help fund the expansion of its network of financial advisers from 380 to 700 by the end of 2003.

CarringtonCarr, the Leicester-based independent financial adviser with 270 staff, has been acquired by AWD of Germany for £32m.

Prudential is to acquire ING's life insurance business in the Philippines, which includes 17 offices and 100 staff.

Gartmore has acquired Riverview International, the US fund manager, for undisclosed terms.

Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin, the US financial restructuring specialist, is opening its first office in London to co-ordinate its expansion into Europe, and the initial staff of 12 will be increased.

Abbey National is expanding its Inscape wealth management service into the offshore market by opening an advice centre in Jersey, and additional centres are likely to follow in Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Hong Kong.

Royal Bank of Scotland has acquired Medford Bancorp of the US for £187m, gaining 19 branches in Massachusetts.

Charles Stanley is looking to spend up to £10m on acquisitions to expand its investment banking business.

London Scottish Bank is seeking acquisitions to expand its consumer credit and factoring operations.

Royal & Sun Alliance is to sell its Isle of Man-based life assurance operations to Friends Provident for £133m, as part of a strategy to focus on general insurance.

Vantis, the accountancy and professional advisory group, has acquired the non-audit business of Darlington-based Gregory Mitford & Snowball for an initial £0.2m.

Fiske has acquired Ionian Group, the investment management company, for £1.6m.

Qdos Consulting, the provider of advice on employment and taxation issues to accountancy and legal firms, is to create a further 20 jobs at its new head office and call centre in Leicester over the next 12 months.

Evolution has agreed to merge with Beeson Gregory in a £92m reverse takeover, creating one of the largest independent retail stockbroking groups.

Provident Financial has sold its Colonade Insurance Brokers subsidiary, which includes 88 high street outlets, to Swinton Group for £27m.

Clifford Chance is setting up its first law practice on the West Coast of the US, with up to 150 staff operating from two main offices in Palo Alto and San Francisco.

IFG Group has acquired Trade Credit Brokers, the Irish independent credit insurance brokerage, for an initial £1m.

Wellington Underwriting has announced plans to set up a £448m London-based reinsurance business called Wellington Re, which will focus mainly on casualty and property.

Svenska Handelsbanken of Sweden is looking to expand its UK banking business by acquiring a building society.

Cardpoint is to raise £2.5m in a flotation on Aim to fund the installation of 250 more cash machines.

Man Group is planning to acquire RMF, the Swiss hedge fund manager, for £570m.

Claims Direct has raised £1.6m from the sale of Sailpool, a non-trading subsidiary.

Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group is to sell its life and general Benelux subsidiaries to Achmea of the Netherlands for £77m.

AMP of Australia has sold Cogent, the London-based provider of back office services to investment managers with 1,000 staff, for up to £227m.

Bank of Ireland has acquired Iridian, the US investment manager, for £121m, which will double the size of its asset management business.

South Staffordshire Group has acquired Regency Financial Holdings of Weston-super-Mare, the provider of retail warranty services with 222 staff, for up to £45m.

Scottish Provident is to close its office in Kendal later this year, with the loss of 210 jobs, in order to relocate the pensions business to existing sites in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Clark Scott Harden has acquired Harmer Mortimer, the North Yorkshire estate agency with offices in Northallerton and Thirsk.

Axa Insurance is to shed 700 jobs over the next year, including 320 in Colchester, 230 in Cardiff and 85 in Bolton, but has also announced plans to invest £100m in its general insurance business over the next three years, including £40m in IT systems.

EBRD, the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, is considering plans to relocate its 862 staff to a new headquarters in London.

Gregory Pennington, the Sale-based debt management firm with 250 staff, has been sold to management for undisclosed terms.

Esure is planning to expand its internet and telephone-based insurance business in Scotland with the creation of 700 jobs over the next five years, having just opened a new office for 200 staff in Glasgow.

Brewin Dolphin has acquired Popes, the Stoke-based stockbroker with 52 staff, for up to £8.6m.

Cazenove is to relocate its London head office from Tokenhouse Yard to Moorgate, in order to combine its 850 banking and investment management staff onto one site.

Management Consulting Group is to acquire Parson Group, the US provider of financial management consultancy services with 13 offices, for £38m.

Viridian has sold its Open & Direct financial services business to Alchemy Partners for £111m.

Wilson Organisation has acquired O'Dell Walton & Partners, the Nottingham-based insurance company, for undisclosed terms, and will relocate the 10 staff to its Waverley Street office.

Royal & Sun Alliance has sold its investment division to Friends Ivory & Sime for £240m, which will involve the transfer of 300 staff.

Bridgewell is to relocate its equities division to new premises in London's Queen Victoria Street and rebrand the business as Bridgewell Securities.

Giles Insurance is planning to set up a call centre at the former Fulton & Wyllie factory in Irvine, with the creation of up to 200 jobs.

Charles Stanley is to acquire Robson Cotterell, the Bournemouth-based stockbroker, for up to £9.5m.

Coyle Hamilton, the Irish insurance company, is planning to double the size of its Belfast office, which currently has 13 staff, over the next three years.

Lloyd's of London is in talks with the Chinese government about plans to expand its insurance business in China.

AMP Pearl is to relocate its customer service and IT operations from Cardiff to sites in Peterborough and Tunbridge Wells, which will affect about 300 staff.

Lazard, the investment bank, is said to be planning to set up a new 130,000 sq ft European headquarters at Mayfair Place in London.

Evolution Group is seeking acquisitions to expand its investment banking and asset management business over the next three months.

Scarborough Building Society is planning to relocate its 300 head office staff to a new 51,000 sq ft site at the Gateway Business Park in Scarborough in September.

Birchin International is to acquire Park Row financial advisers in a £13m reverse takeover, and the new group will raise £3m in a share placing.

Capita Group has acquired City Financial Group, the provider of unit trust administration services, for up to £4.6m.

Royal Bank of Scotland is to set up a new customer service centre at Horwich near Bolton for the Virgin One all-in-one mortgage account, with the creation of 300 jobs, while 150 jobs will be created at its existing site in Norwich.

Centrica has confirmed plans to set up a call centre for the Goldfish credit card at Atlantic Quay in Glasgow by July, with the creation of 200 jobs.

Deloitte & Touche has reached agreement to acquire the UK arm of Andersen, which will involve the transfer of 383 partners and 5,000 staff.

IFG Group is to expand its financial services business through the acquisition of IPS Pensions, the Bristol-based provider of actuarial and pension services, for up to £15m.

Capcon Holdings has acquired Vincent Sherman, the insurance fraud investigation business with 43 staff, for up to £0.5m.

Berwin Leighton Paisner, the law firm, is to set up a new 88,000 sq ft headquarters at Lower Thames Street in London.

DTLR, the government department for transport, local government and the regions, is planning to rationalise its network of 1,300 offices and relocate many staff into larger regional hubs over the next 10 years.

Positive Solutions is planning to create more than 200 jobs in its nationwide network of 455 financial advisers over the next year.

Abbey National is planning to open banking outlets in about 20 Homebase DIY stores, with the first test branch opening in Liverpool this week.

Bank of Ireland is planning to set up a factoring and invoice discounting business in the UK and Germany called Enterprise Finance Europe, which will involve opening new offices in Manchester, London and Frankfurt.

GUS is to acquire, the US supplier of online credit reports, from for £86m, in order to expand its Experian North America business.

Cornhill is to create 22 jobs at its newly-opened insurance claims centre in Aztec West, Bristol, this year.

Collins Stewart is planning to expand its Quest online stock-picking operation to incorporate US and Asian stocks, as part of the ongoing diversification of its financial services business.

Lighthouse Group is to acquire BWA, the Exeter-based network of almost 200 independent financial advisers, in a £2.1m deal.

GE Capital Woodchester is planning to relocate its car finance business and up to 300 jobs from Edinburgh to Leeds.

Numerica has acquired Practice Track, the Bristol-based supplier of marketing services to accountancy firms, for £1m.

Morgan Cole, the law firm, is to set up a new 24,000 sq ft office at the Port Tawe development in Swansea, which will involve the relocation of 70 jobs and the creation of 50 jobs by 2005.

The Welsh Development Agency is to relocate 200 staff to a new 35,000 sq ft headquarters at Castle Gate in Cardiff next month.

Churchill Insurance is planning to create up to 200 jobs at its Thornaby call centre on Teesside.

Millfield has acquired Moncur Jackson & Associates, the Newcastle upon Tyne-based employee benefits business, for up to £2.2m.

Royal Bank of Scotland has announced plans to build a new headquarters for up to 3,000 staff at the former Gogarburn hospital site in Edinburgh.

Inter-Alliance is to raise £17m in a share placing to expand the infrastructure and support functions of its financial services business.

Friends Provident is looking to spend up to £1bn on acquisitions to expand its fund management business.

Numerica is to acquire the non-audit business of Leicester-based Pole Arnold in a £4.2m deal.

The Inland Revenue has announced plans to create about 300 jobs at a new call centre in Dudley in September, and has confirmed plans to open other centres in Dundee, Livingston and Peterlee.

Coutts Consulting is to be acquired by Right Management Consultants, the US recruitment firm, for £74m.

Retail Decisions has acquired Paymentplus, the US supplier of payment card fraud prevention services, for £1.6m.

The National Assembly for Wales has pledged to relocate 400 jobs from Cardiff to other parts of Wales over the next five years, in order to decentralise its offices.

Scottish Equitable is considering plans to set up a new London head office at the 60,000 sq ft GTS House on Shaftesbury Avenue, in order to consolidate five existing offices.

Royal Bank of Scotland is seeking further acquisitions, and is particularly interested in expanding its US banking operations.

HBOS has announced a £1.1bn share placing to continue the expansion of its retail and life assurance operations.

Provident Financial has closed its South African credit and insurance operations in order to focus on the expansion of its central European business.

TD Waterhouse is about to open new retail stockbroking branches in London and the North.

HBOS is to set up a new administration complex in Fife for its Intelligent Finance internet and telephone banking business, with the creation of 800 jobs.

The Inland Revenue is planning to create 300 jobs at a new call centre in Livingston in August.

The AA is to create 120 new jobs at its call centre in Newcastle upon Tyne to deal with customers for its new credit card.

Ofex, the small companies share trading market, is planning to open a chain of regional offices this year, including its first move into Scotland.

Bacs is planning to invest £75m modernising its technology over the next five years, due to rising demand for automated payment clearing services.

CGNU is to acquire Dao Heng Assurance and DBS Kwong On Insurance from DBS Group for £31m, in order to expand its insurance operations in Hong Kong.

Johnston Carmichael has acquired the Aberdeen accountancy practice of HLB Kidsons for undisclosed terms.

Cobbetts, the Manchester law firm, is to merge with Read Hind Stewart of Leeds in May, creating a combined group with 67 partners.

Cendant is creating 50 new jobs at its Swindon-based relocation and training business, with vacancies for operations managers, relocation advisers and training consultants.

Prudential is said to be planning to set up a new 38,000 sq ft divisional office at the PaddingtonCentral development in London.

Affinitas has acquired the Armed Forces Financial Advisory Service from insurance broker Willis, and is now seeking similar acquisitions.

Smart & Cook has acquired Lanarkshire-based Lewis Wotherspoon in order to expand its Scottish insurance brokerage.

London Scottish Bank has acquired Sterling Direct Finance, the Southend-based secured lending broker, for an initial £5.8m.

Hercules Property Services has acquired DOR Northern, the Macclesfield-based housing association property insurance broker, for up to £4m.

Tenon is to build a new £2m 20,000 sq ft office for its accountancy business in Washington, Tyne & Wear, and staff will relocate from the existing site in Sunderland later this year.

Deutsche Bank has announced proposals to build a 38-storey office block in Islington on the edge of the City of London, as a commercial development by its Deutsche Grundbesitz property division.

Carlisle City Council has approved plans from Capita dbs to build a £6m headquarters for its business services operation at Kingmoor Park, where it will employ 500 staff.

The Child Support Agency is to set up a new data processing facility at Cumnock in Ayrshire with the creation of 170 jobs.

Bank of Ireland is to set up a new £6m flagship branch with 60 staff at the Middleton Building in Belfast city centre in June, and three existing branches will close.

MBNA is planning to set up a new credit card sales and administration office at the Chester Business Park this summer, with the creation of up to 500 jobs.

Alexander Forbes is to acquire a 60% stake in Lane Clark & Peacock for £28m, in order to expand its consulting actuarial business in the UK.

Royal Bank of Scotland has acquired the Italian direct motor insurance division of Royal & Sun Alliance for £12m, as part of a strategy to expand its Direct Line business into continental Europe.

Egg is to acquire Zebank, the French online financial business, for £23m, and will invest a further £100m on its expansion into continental Europe over the next three years.

Kingfisher is to sell Time Retail Finance, its Leeds-based financial services operation, to GE Capital for £149m, as part of a strategy to focus on DIY and electrical retailing.

Rowe & Maw, the corporate law firm, has agreed terms for a merger with Mayer Brown & Platt of the US, creating a combined group called Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw with revenues of £480m.

Claims Direct is to acquire Claimline, the personal injury claims specialist, for £1.5m, and has also announced plans to communicate with more customers by post rather than employing claims managers.

Endsleigh Insurance Services, the operator of 129 insurance shops, is planning a management buy-out from Dutch-based Goudse for undisclosed terms.

Morgan Stanley is planning to create up to 450 jobs in Glasgow over the next three years, and will set up a new credit card operation at the Cerium Building in Cadogan Square later this year.

IRevolution has sold Fund Management Services, the provider of software and services to the fund management sector, to Linedata Services for £0.7m.

Peninsula Business Services is planning to invest £1.5m in the expansion of its Manchester-based employment law advice business over the next year, with the creation of 70 jobs.

Green Flag is planning to create up to 100 jobs at its insurance call centre in Doncaster, while a further 300 jobs are being created in Leeds and Pudsey.

Hastings Direct is to create up to 150 new jobs at its insurance call centre in Bexhill.

Churchill Insurance is to create 200 new jobs in Ipswich, in order to expand its claims, sales and customer service departments.

Abbey National is to invest £25m a year in improvements to its current account services, with the creation of 500 new jobs in Sheffield, Bradford and Manchester.

Baker Tilly is planning to merge with HLB Kidsons to create a combined accountancy firm with about 300 partners and 2,000 staff.

Apax Partners is to acquire Azimut, the fund management business of Italian bank Bipop-Carire for £230m.

Brainspark, the internet investment company, has accepted a £5.2m takeover offer from Italian software company AI Software.