British banking giant HSBC played down on Tuesday reports that it was planning a takeover of US finance house Merrill Lynch.
The two banking heavyweights set up a billion-dollar joint venture in April to provide online banking services for wealthy customers, and rumours that they will take the next step and combine their operations have once again started to circulate.
"Our relationship with Merrill Lynch is just a joint venture," an HSBC spokeswoman said, commenting on a New York Post report which said the two banks were already holding merger talks. An HSBC spokesman in Hong Kong declined to comment on the merger possibility, dismissing it as "market rumor".
Executives stressed at the time the joint venture was unveiled that the move was not a prelude to a full-blown merger.
But despite the denials stock in HSBC advanced in early trading in London, gaining 2.1 percent to 981 pence. — (AFP)
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