BNP Paribas, Goldman, Lazard, Big Law Merger

BNP has a large war chest and we all know that the French bank is on the acquisition trail. And although a run at Societe Generale has long been muted, it looks like BNP is more interested now in expansion in the US.

The bank's chairman, Michel Pebereau, told Dow Jones Newswires last week that 'if there were any interesting options for us in Europe, we would take them. But the European market is consolidated. There is nothing left'.

Goldman Sachs has now got approval from China's financial regulator, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, for its joint investment banking venture with local partner Beijing Gao Securities. Goldman will have a 33% stake in the new vehicle. The Wall Street firm is now well positioned to play a leading part in the investment banking game in China.

And things seem to have cooled down a little at Lazard. It appears that firm chairman, Michel David-Weill, has backed away from his ultimatum to Lazard head Bruce Wasserstein that the firm should IPO by June or forget it. The smart money says that the two senior bankers are close to a compromise and that the IPO deadline will probably be extended to March 2006. Media reports suggest that Wasserstein will, in any case, quit Lazard in the event that he doesn't pull off the IPO by the end of next year.

Finally, a big US/UK law firm merger was announced over the weekend. Piper Rudnick will merge with DLA, to form DLA Piper Rudnick. The new firm will have 2,700 lawyers and 49 offices around the world, making it one of the largest corporate law firms.

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