In a move aimed at broadening its capital markets operations in Europe, NationsBank Corp. said it would double the capital of its London-based bank to $300 million and open a branch in Frankfurt.
J.G. Richards Roddey, executive vice president for NationsBank in London, said in a recent interview that the company is also considering opening a branch in Paris.
He added that although most of the expansion is aimed at increasing the bank's trading of securities, foreign exchange, and derivatives, its European subsidiary has also applied to U.K. regulators for authorization to underwrite corporate debt and equity.
Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank has already built up an underwriting business in the United States, where it holds limited Section 20 investment banking powers.
Mr. Roddey did not rule out further capital increases in the European unit and said they might well come in the form of a preferred-share issue.
Trading in NationsBank shares began on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday. The bank is already listed on the New York, Tokyo, and Pacific stock exchanges.
NationsBank began trading its stock in Japan in 1988 with a 5-million- share issue.
The third-largest U.S. bank, with $187 billion in assets, NationsBank raised some uncertainty about its European strategy after it sold its London institutional brokerage firm, Panmure Gordon & Co., several months ago.
Mr. Roddey said NationsBank hadn't been seeking to sell the unit, but decided to do so after an especially favorable offer from Germany's Westdeutsche Landesbank. "Parts of Panmure Gordon weren't really relevant to what we were doing, which is building on the back of our existing franchise," he said.
He did not exclude the possibility that NationsBank might open other branches in Europe.
NationsBank runs a branch in London alongside its U.K.-registered bank. All regular banking business, including lending, is handled by the branch.
NationsBank Europe handles trading in fixed-income debt and other securities-related transactions, as well as derivatives-related operations and corporate finance advisory.
The bank employs 300 people in Europe, most of them in trading or marketing. Ten NationsBank Europe staffers do investment banking advisory work, structured finance, and securitizations.
Analysts said NationsBank's decision to list on the London Exchange was clearly aimed at raising its profile and expanding its investor base.
They added that the capital increase, as well as the sale of Panmure Gordon, showed that NationsBank is sticking with its strategy of developing only those operations sought by its corporate customers.
They also noted that the London listing will permit NationsBank to issue London Exchange-listed debt on the Euromarkets. The bank was previously obliged to list its Euromarket issues on the Luxembourg Exchange.
Sally Pope Davis, a bank analyst with Goldman, Sachs & Co., observed that NationsBank's strategy is broadly similar to that of other large U.S. banks and is geared to "serving U.S. multinational clients across global capital markets."
"That doesn't mean they're going to be going after a European client base but it does mean having a capital markets presence in places like London to handle foreign exchange and trading. The fact that they sold Panmure Gordon underscores their commitment to their existing client base," she added.