NETHERLANDS – ABN Amro says it sees a “major opportunity” in investment management, although profits at its asset management unit fell by more than five percent in 2003.

“The expected growth in investment management services is a major opportunity for our franchise,” the bank said in its fourth-quarter earnings statement.

“We aim to take advantage of this trend and we expect, assuming no major deterioration of global financial markets, to continue the positive momentum from the second half of 2003 into 2004.”

A spokesman said the comments were not to be taken as a hint that the bank is seeking acquisitions in the asset management area.

The bank reported a 5.6% decline in net profit at its asset management business unit, with this year’s 68 million-euro profit down on 2002’s 72 million euros. In the fourth quarter, though, net profit was 21 million euros - up 10.5% on the previous quarter.

Revenues at the division fell 6.2% to 496 million euros in 2003, though they were up 13.6% on the quarter at 142 million euros. Revenues were hit by lower commission income and the shift from equities to lower margin fixed income and cash products.

It said the operating result for 2003 was hit by the strong dollar – as around one third of assets under management are US-dollar denominated.

Assets under management, taking the dollar into account, were flat at 156 billion euros. The asset mix was 48% equities, 41% fixed income and 11% cash and other. In terms of mandates, 53% were institutional, seven percent private clients and 40% funds.

Overall, the bank posted a net profit of 3.2 billion euros in 2003, a rise of 43%.