Dutch-owned Robeco Bank has signalled its intention to become a major player in the European institutional market, backed by the financial muscle of Rabo Bank, and is currently seeking acquisitions to aid this strategy.

The bank has outlined its European ambitions in a recent strategy paper and will be prioritising the U K, German, French and Swiss institutional markets for the next five years.

Rabo Bank bought 50% of the new Robeco management group, Robeco Groep N.V. (RGNV) in February this year with the option to buy the re-maining 50% in four years' time provided the current arrangement has met with commercial success. This depends on the group as a whole achieving assets of dfl150bn ($79bn) under management or if Rabo Bank has been responsible for obtaining half of the total asset management business. RGNV will cover all of the group's asset management activities with the exception of property.

Graziano Lusenti, director of Rob-eco's institutional department in Switzerland, said: Robeco are now part of the Rabo Group, but we are the independent asset management arm." He added: "This acquisition means that we will get additional means for the expansion of the group through international acquisitions. The expansion will be mainly in the area of institutional business."

"The institutional market in Europe is the major concern of the Robeco Group for the coming five years."

With particular reference to Switze-rland, Lusenti said that he was particularly happy because it made the bank a more powerful force when looking for acquisitions.

In a statement on the agreement, Robeco bank says that EMU would have converted it from a large player on the Dutch market to a small player in European terms.

It provides the following assessment of the market after EMU: "In addition to good investment results, size has become of paramount importance in a highly competitive market, which is becoming more international every day. For this we need money: more than the Robeco Group can produce itself. However, with Rabo Bank as a financially strong and reliable partner, we can realise the desired size at the intended pace."

Since 1990 Rabo Bank and Robeco Bank in the Netherlands have had a strategic alliance. The buy-out follows on from discussions last year which examined ways in which the two groups could co-operate more closely. John Lappin"