SBJ tipped as an investment opportunity for US company

US investment company Capital Z is understood to be looking to invest in a UK insurance broker.

A spokeswoman for Capital Z said the company's representatives responsible for UK investment were "on the road in the UK" and therefore unavailable for comment.

Market sources have suggested SBJ could be one of the brokers in which Capital Z would invest.

An SBJ spokesman said: "We never comment on market gossip." Sources close to the broker played down the speculation saying SBJ would remain "stoutly private".

SBJ reported fee and commission income of £51m in 2002.

It is understood that, earlier this year, Capital Z was in talks with Smart & Cook regarding a potential investment in the broker. The negotiations took place prior to Smart & Cook completing a deal with 3i, which saw the venture capitalist acquire a large minority shareholding in the company.

Smart & Cook reported fee and commission income of £13.2m in 2003.

A broking source said Capital Z "still has an appetite" for investing in a UK broker, but added that the company is "slow moving".

In recent years, Capital Z invested in Catlin Westgen Group Ltd (CWGL) and Endurance Worldwide Insurance.

In 2002, Capital Z led a group of investors that provided $532m of capital for CWGL.

Founded in 1998, Capital Z Investment Partners (CZIP) is an alternative investment sponsor with offices in New York, London and Hong Kong. The company invests in private equity funds, hedge funds and structured products.