American banks and fund management houses are likely to be the strongest contenders to buy Robert Fleming if it is put up for sale, analysts said. Banks such as JP Morgan and Chase Manhattan Bank and fund-management houses other than Fidelity and Templeton, which already have a strong Asian presence, would be the most obvious contenders, analysts said. Buying Robert Fleming would give powerful US houses an instant and commanding presence in Asia at a time when financial assets with strong emerging-market operations were being valued at a fraction of levels seen 12 months ago. 'Jardine Fleming is still an attractive asset because of its fund-management licences in Japan and Taiwan and its tremendous brand recognition in the region,' one analyst said. Jardine Matheson said on Friday it was ending its 28-year joint-venture partnership with the British bank in the Jardine Fleming group. Jardine Matheson managing director Alasdair Morrison said the conglomerate was not seeking to reduce its exposure to Asia. 'This deal has been driven by the dictates of the global financial markets,' he said. Robert Fleming said the changes to the group's share structure were not a part of any sell-off plans. 'We are not for sale, period,' a spokesman said. However, analysts said Robert Fleming was now a more attractive acquisition target because the buyer could secure 100 per cent of Jardine Fleming from the deal. Analysts said a potential buyer of Robert Fleming would be most interested in its London-based fund-management business and Jardine Fleming. Robert Fleming's investment-banking operation was unlikely to attract much interest, one analyst said. Given the turmoil in emerging markets and the group's sluggish performance in the past few years, Robert Fleming's main shareholder, the Fleming family, might be unwilling to sell its stake in the bank for the price it would command, one analyst said. 'They have definitely missed the peak in terms of price,' he said. Another analyst believed that Robert Fleming shareholders were unlikely to be sellers in the short term. Analysts said that, at the peak of Jardine Fleming's profitability in 1994, it could have commanded a 35 per cent stake in Robert Fleming for its Jardine Fleming holding.