Marshall & Ilsley Corp. and Lloyd's Bank PLC have signed joint-venture agreements with the private placement firm SPP Hambro & Co.

The affiliations underscore a push by commercial banks to offer a broad array of capital markets products to bolster their corporate relationships.

Private placements let corporations issue debt that is typically of a longer maturity than alternatives such as loans or corporate bonds. Buyers of this debt are usually insurance companies.

"There are a lot more people doing private placements, and as a result, the market is much more liquid," said SPP Hambro president Stefan L. Shaffer.

In the last year, SPP Hambro has been building its business around joint venture relationships, most of them with commercial banks.

"We're running at about 20% better than last year," said Mr. Shaffer. "This is clearly further diversification of the deal flow amongst our partners."

In the last fiscal year, British companies supplied $613 million of the $1.9 billion of traditional private placements SPP Hambro brought to market.

Hambro already has joint ventures with Boatmen's Bancshares, KPMG Peat Marwick, Wells Fargo & Co., Hibernia Bancshares, Hambros Bank, Comerica Inc., and United Jersey Bank.

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