Bloomberg News

KUALA LUMPUR — HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest bank by market value, denied it plans to buy Merrill Lynch & Co. or another investment bank, and said it’s focusing on completing purchases in Thailand and the Philippines.

The bank, which is integrating recent purchases, including Republic Bank of New York Corp. and Credit Commercial de France, has repeatedly denied reports it will buy Merrill Lynch, insisting its relationship is restricted to a $1 billion joint venture announced in April.

“We have not held any talks with Merrill beyond that joint venture,” HSBC Group Chairman John Bond, who was attending a board meeting in Malaysia, said. “We have no acquisition plans on our agenda — we believe we can grow our investment banking business into a world class business.”

Speculation on a merger has been fueled in recent months with Credit Suisse First Boston Inc.’s purchase of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc., and Chase Manhattan Corp.’s purchase of J.P. Morgan & Co.

“Our investment banking business is an important one within the HSBC group with over $5 billion of capital invested in it,” Bond said. “We plan to grow the business organically, we have no plans to make any acquisition in investment banking at present.”

Bond said he expects the bank will reach a final agreement to buy 75% of Bangkok Metropolitan Bank by the end of this year. It signed a preliminary agreement in May to buy the lender.

“We remain committed to acquiring 75% of (the bank),” Bond said. “We need one or two more approvals from the Thai authorities. They set the timetable, hopefully we can achieve that by the end of this year.”

The acquisition of Bangkok Metropolitan Bank will give HSBC, which has operated in Thailand since 1888, an extensive branch network with which to compete with local lenders, who have been protected from foreign competition by rules limiting foreign bank expansion.

Earlier this week HSBC Holdings moved to boost its stake in Egyptian British Bank to about 51% from about 40%, in an offer that will run through until Oct. 11.

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