Investment bank Close Brothers yesterday said it was looking for acquisitions after unveiling an eleven per cent rise in operating profits.

The group, which has a private asset management operation in Birmingham, said profits before tax and goodwill amortisation rose to £131.7 million in the year to July 31 from £118.9 million last time. Profit before tax rose by seven per cent to £108.6 million and earnings per share was five per cent up at 47.2p.

Close Brothers has been involved in a number of deals in the West Midlands in recent months, including a £27 million management buyout of Liberty's nightclub in Edgbaston from Luminar.

Chief executive Colin Keogh said the group was looking to expand its asset management division which last year grew its pretax profits by 83 per cent to a record £31.8 million

"We're seeing the fruits of our labours," Mr Keogh said, adding that the unit's share of group profits was now more than 20 per cent compared with only about eight per cent three years ago.

"We've always got our eyes open for acquisitions," he said, adding that these could be in the private client or fund management arena.

"There are lots of interesting things to look at in both of those areas," he added.

Analysts say the firm would like to build up its private client side, but current price tags on that type of business at about 3.4 per cent of funds under management might be a deterrent.

Close Brothers, which also has banking, corporate finance and market-making businesses, said all four of its divisions had made a good start to the new financial year.

Corporate finance was set to benefit from a surge in mergers and acquisitions activity, while marketmaking had benefited from a "small yet encouraging" contribution from Frankfurtbased Seydler which it bought for £17 million.

"Corporate finance, a bit like market-making, does depend on market confidence, and things are pretty OK at the moment," Mr Keogh said.

The chief executive declined to comment when asked about speculation earlier this year that Close Brothers might look at buying a mid-cap stockbroking business.

"We've got a great mix of businesses at the moment, and we're very happy with what we've got."

Chairman Sir David Scholey said: "The General Election changed neither the political landscape nor the economic policies in the UK. The UK economic outlook remains somewhat unsettled."