EUROPE - German private bank Sal. Oppenheim has fully acquired Financière Atlas, a French asset management boutique, in a move which it says will give it a bigger share of France's institutional market.

Oppenheim lifted its stake in Financière Atlas to 100% from 10% by acquiring an 80% stake held by Germany's BHF-Bank and a 10% stake held by the boutique's management.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but German news reports speculated that Oppenheim paid €30m for the 90% stake it did not already own. Frankfurt-based BHF-Bank was acquired by Sal. Oppenheim in January 2005.

"Financière Atlas is a very established house in French institutional asset management and the deal complements our strategy of positioning ourselves as a European asset management and investment bank," remarked Matthias Graf von Krockow, Oppenheim's chief executive.

Founded in 1988, Financière Atlas has around €1bn in assets under management (AuM), €600m of which are invested in hedge funds, private equity and real estate. Its chief clients include French insurers, pension funds, banks and IFAs.

Along with acquiring Financière Atlas, Oppenheim said that it had opened an office in Paris. The office's initial staff will offer brokerage and equity sales services to French institutional clients wanting to invest in Germany.

"Later this year, we will also extend the range of services to French small- and mid-cap equities and will build a new research team focussed on French equities," the private bank added.

Oppenheim's latest acquisition comes almost a month after it announced plans to move its headquarters to Luxembourg from Cologne. The private bank has been based in Cologne since 1789.

Oppenheim said the move to Luxembourg - which has lower taxes and a more liberal regulatory environment than in Germany - would enable it to more easily expand its business across Europe. The bank already uses Luxembourg to launch funds for institutional and retail clients.

But Oppenheim stressed that the move would have no negative implications for its former home base, noting that the number of staff in Cologne would rise to 1100 from 900 just this year.

Counting those at BHF-Bank, Oppenheim's AuM currently totals €136bn.