Comerica Inc. soon will be able to offer international equity funds, because an affiliate, Munder Capital Management, plans to buy a significant stake in a British investment management firm.
Munder, which is partly owned by Detroit-based Comerica, plans to buy 49% of Framlington Group PLC, a London-based money manager, from Throgmorton Trust. Framlington, which is mostly held by Credit Commercial de France, has $3.5 billion under management and counts Rolls Royce among its institutional clients.
Terms of the deal, announced in July, were not disclosed.
The transaction is expected to close in early 1997. Comerica then can sell Framlington's European managed funds to its American institutional and individual clients.
"This is an affiliation that broadens our product line, which we'll be able to offer to our existing clients and all of Comerica's clients," said Paul D. Tobias, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Munder.
Comerica has a significant interest in Munder, enabling the bank to offer the Birmingham, Mich.-based firm's funds to its retail and institutional clients. The rest of Munder, which manages $35 billion in assets, is owned by Munder's management.
"It's Munder products that are distributed through Comerica's channels, and this will provide Comerica with international expertise," said Erika M. Cramer, a vice president of Berkshire Capital Corp., the New York investment bank that located Munder for Framlington.
Munder's wholly owned affiliate, World Asset Management, also in Birmingham, manages $2 billion in foreign securities and American depository receipts, using a quantitative, index investment strategy. But Framlington would give Munder access to equity products managed on the ground in European and emerging market countries.
"We had a very significant hole in the area of actively managed international equity," Mr. Tobias said. "To actively manage a U.K. investment portfolio from Birmingham, Mich., would be a very difficult task."
Comerica would not be the first American bank to sell European-managed equity funds. NationsBank's one-year-old joint venture with Gartmore PLC - dubbed Gartmore Global Partners - gives the Charlotte-based bank's institutional investment clients access to international products.
The Munder deal, however, involves taking an ownership stake in Framlington. NationsBank passed on the opportunity to buy part of Gartmore.
"The ownership is important for the management to feel stable and comfortable in a situation," said Avi Nachmany, a partner of Strategic Insight, a consulting firm in New York.
Mr. Nachmany added that more domestic banks are seeking ways to offer to their customers international funds that are managed abroad.
"The share of international funds for U.S. investors is going to expand," he said. "Banks need to have that dimension of the business and they need to find it elsewhere. It's inevitable."
Other American firms, mostly nonbanks, have already taken interests in European money managers so they can sell their funds. For instance, Phoenix, Duff & Phelps in Hartford, has a joint venture with a Scottish money manager, Aberdeen Trust, allowing clients on both sides of the Atlantic to invest in international equity funds.
"You wouldn't typically find that type of investment opportunity at a regional bank like Comerica," said Les Dinkin, a principal of Westport, Conn.-based NBW Consulting Inc. "Now this let's them be aggressive and very creative on the international side in ways that their competitors haven't been."