Chase in $1.3Bln Bank Buy

LOS ANGELES -- Banking giant Chase Manhattan Corp., looking to tap into what it sees as the highest growth sector of the U.S. economy, agreed to pay $1.35 billion for Hambrecht & Quist Group, a top investment banker for fledgling high-technology and Internet businesses.

New York-based Chase, the United States' third-largest bank with $357 billion in assets, is a top corporate lender but has lagged its commercial-banking peers in buying an investment firm that would give it a bigger role in underwriting stock sales and advising on mergers and acquisitions.

Instead, Chase's pact to buy San Francisco-based Hambrecht & Quist for $50 a share in cash is a clear statement that Chase is no longer content to service just conventional, established businesses but also wants to exploit the boom in Internet and other cutting-edge technology companies.

Hambrecht & Quist is widely viewed as a key player in jump-starting Silicon Valley during the 1960s through the early 1980s.

The company underwrote the initial public stock offerings, or IPOs, for hundreds of technology companies, including many of high-tech and biotech's most important names. It helped bring Genentech Inc. and Apple Computer Inc. public in 1980, and did likewise for publishing-software titan Adobe Systems Inc. in 1986.

More recently the company took Internet pioneer Netscape Communications (since acquired by America Online Inc.) public in 1995, and it co-managed the IPO of online bookseller Inc. in 1997. Hambrecht & Quist also was the co-lead underwriter earlier this year for the IPO of Inc., a standard-setting company for the distribution of music over the World Wide Web.