World’s oldest brokerage vanishes under Indian umbrellaMarch 18th, 2010 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, March 18 (IANS) The world’s oldest brokerage firm has faded into history after its famous name was scratched out by its Indian owners as part of plans to establish a global financial services umbrella.
Indian financial services giant Religare, which acquired the 200-year-old British firm Hichens Harrison in 2008 to be known as Religare Hichens Harrison in London, renamed itself Religare Capital Markets at an event Wednesday.
Attended by Britain’s Trade and Investment Minister Lord Mervyn Davies, the event was held to announce the merger of Religare’s investment banking arm with its brokerage service under a single umbrella.
“This move brings its investment banking and institutional broking businesses under one umbrella globally as the company accelerates its drive to become the world’s first integrated platform for emerging markets,” a spokesman for Religare said.
But after the recent takeover of the colonial-era East India Company by Indian businessman Sanjeev Mehta, the end of Hichens Harrison - dating back to at least 1803 - was mourned by some in the City of London.
“The name carried a lot of clout and a huge number of people will be very sad to see it go,” columnist Victoria Bates quoted a “City chum” as saying in City A.M., a free business paper serving London.
Scotching sentiment, Minister Davies “welcomed” the move, saying: “Religare made an excellent decision to invest in London, and is doubling its staff over the next three years. Its offices here are helping the firm to achieve its aim of global growth.
“Financial services firms from around the world find that the UK offers an unparalleled breadth and depth of talent that can help them to achieve their global ambitions. In London, they can complete at the highest level against the very best on the international stage,” the minister added.
Hichens Harrison, described as a “bastion of Britishness”, was snapped up in a 55 million pound cash deal by Religare, which is controlled by Malvinder and Shivinder Mohan Singh, one-time owners of the drug company Ranbaxy.
Hichens Harrison was said to be the only City stockbroking firm to have survived more than 200 years almost in its original form.
The firm was set up by Robert Hichens - no one knows when but the oldest document bearing his name dates back to 1803. Hichens, from a Cornish fishing family that had fallen on hard times, was joined in 1817 by Frederic Harrison.
“After over 200 years providing services to the City of London, it was a sad farewell yesterday to the oldest stockbroking name in the Square Mile,” said one commentator.
However, Religare is reportedly keen to hold on to the rights to the Hichens Harrison name rather than sell it.
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