Continuing its efforts to grow as an asset manager, IBJ Whitehall Financial Group has bought a 50% equity stake in a fixed-income money manager.

The deal with Atlantic Asset Management Partners LLC, which closed July 29, is New York-based IBJ Whitehall's third asset management acquisition since spring 1998 and doubles its assets under management, to roughly $8 billion. Terms were not disclosed.

It reflects efforts to focus on core businesses-asset management for high-net-worth and institutional investors, corporate finance, and asset- based lending, said a spokeswoman for IBJ Whitehall, which had $2.4 billion of assets at the end of 1998.

The deal will also let IBJ Whitehall better serve Japanese institutional investors, said Dennis G. Buchert, the president and chief executive. IBJ Whitehall is owned by Industrial Bank of Japan.

"Japanese investors like fixed-income products, and we didn't have the products that they liked. It was easier to acquire them than to build them," he said.

The talks between IBJ Whitehall and Atlantic Asset Management began about a year ago, when IBJ Whitehall was seeking a subadviser for high- yield collateralized bond obligations. Private investors indicated they were interested in selling their 50% stake, Mr. Buchert said. The remaining shares are held by members of the management team at the Stamford, Conn., and Overland Park, Kan., offices.

Atlantic Asset Management will keep its name and continue to be run by Ronald W. Sellers, the president and chief executive. He reports to Warren Olsen, the president of IBJ Whitehall Asset Management Group.

IBJ Whitehall is still a relatively small money manager compared with some of its peers in banking such as Citigroup and Mellon Bank Corp. of Pittsburgh, which manage assets of $347 billion and $415 billion, respectively.

But buying the capability can be a fast way to obtain "credibility, competence, and an intact operation all in one fell swoop," said David B. Master, managing director of Optima Group Inc., a Fairfield, Conn.-based consulting firm.

IBJ Whitehall will continue to "make selective acquisitions in order to acquire product, asset management professionals, and clients," Mr. Buchert said.

IBJ Whitehall will probably buy an institutional money manager that focuses on equities early next year, he said.

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