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Icap looks to grow abroad

ICAP, the interdealer broker founded by Conservative Party treasurer Michael Spencer, said it would accelerate its international expansion after a dip in first half profit.<br /><br />Icap, the world&rsquo;s biggest interdealer broker, is one of the few companies doing worse than last year, with pretax profit slipping five per cent to &pound;166m.<br /><br />Icap, like its rivals, does best when markets are in turmoil as they were last year when embattled financial institutions increased trade in derivatives and hedging products to try to smooth market shocks.<br /><br />Weakness in sterling also added &pound;42m to profit in the period.<br /><br />Icap has been identified as using the positive prevailing conditions since 2008 to poach staff on large bonuses from troubled financial institutions. Spencer acknowledged that profit margins had taken a hit of 0.5 per cent from the cost of retaining so-called &ldquo;rainmakers&rdquo; but said the bigger dent to profitability came from the cost of driving the business in expanding foreign markets. <br /><br />He said an extra &pound;38m had been invested in growing Icap&rsquo;s presence in areas where trading is poised to grow quicker than established markets. Brazil is a current focus, with revenues up 15 per cent to &pound;68m. Spencer said yesterday that could grow to &pound;350m as the Brazilian economy expands. <br /><br />Commenting on the direction of the industry, Icap&rsquo;s chief operating officer Mark Yallop said he expects over-the-counter derivatives markets to make major advances toward electronic trading in 2010.<br /><br />Electronic trading is the area on which ICAP is most intensely focused, he said.