Price seeks to buy other half of international joint venture; Deal with British partner sought as Chase nears Robert Fleming takeover; Mutual funds


T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. is negotiating to buy its British partner's half-interest in their 21-year- old joint money management venture.

The Baltimore mutual fund company has been negotiating for several days with Robert Fleming Holdings Ltd. to buy its stake in Rowe Price-Fleming International, Price spokesman Steve Norwitz said yesterday.

Price also has been negotiating with Chase Manhattan Corp., which is expected to announce soon that it will acquire Robert Fleming, a United Kingdom investment bank, in a deal valued at $7 billion, according to sources close to the Chase-Fleming talks.

Chase, the second-largest U.S. bank, has wanted to expand its investment banking and fund management businesses globally this year. With Robert Fleming, Chase would immediately boost its business in Europe and Asia.

Price's buyout of its partner's share is expected to be announced with the Chase acquisition.

Norwitz said no announcement will be made until the Baltimore company has struck an agreement.

Rowe Price-Fleming, started in 1979, manages Price's international funds as well as international investments for U.S. institutional and individual investors.

"It's been probably the most successful joint venture for international investing dating back to the 1970s," Norwitz said.

Many similar ventures launched around the same time by other investment firms have failed, he said.

The venture has $43 billion in assets under management, including $24 billion in 13 T. Rowe Price international funds. Much of that growth occurred in the past five years.

Investors initially were slow to warm to international investing until the mid-1980s, Norwitz said. The venture hit $1 billion in assets under management in 1984. At the end of 1995, the venture had $22.2 billion in assets, about half of its current assets.

Wire services contributed to this article.

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