A frenzied race is on to buy up money management companies - but banks, which have vowed to bolster their fledgling mutual fund businesses through acquisitions, aren't making it to the winners' circle.

Banks have been outbid at every turn by investment banks, brokerages, and other mutual funds who are increasingly eager to reach critical mass in the money management business. Confident that their huge branch networks would be a boon to any fund company they acquire, banks have been unwilling to cough up the steep premiums that money managers are now commanding.

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