Big Banks Rank among Top of Venture Capital Investors

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Venture capital isn't just for maverick financiers anymore.

In the latest display of corporate clout in the venture capital arena, a division of Chase Manhattan Bank invested the most money in entrepreneurial companies during the first three months of this year. New York-based Chase Capital's venture capital investments totaled $289 million during the three-month period ended March 31, according to PricewaterhouseCooper's quarterly "Money Tree" survey, released Monday.

Chase Capital spread the seed money among 45 different investments, primarily in companies developing technology for the Internet, said David Britts, a general partner for the firm. "The earlier we can get involved in a company, the better," said Britts, who works in Chase Capital's Mountain View, Calif. office.

The venture capital arms of two other big U.S. banks, Wells Fargo and BancBoston Capital Ventures, also ranked among the 10 most active investors identified in the survey. Norwest Equity Partners, part of Wells Fargo, invested $119 million during the quarter and BancBoston placed $115 million, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"I think big banks and companies are here to stay," said Tracy Lefteroff, a PricewaterhouseCoopers' managing partner specializing in venture capital.

Banks and corporations are forming venture capital divisions because of the huge payoffs generated in recent years by Internet start-ups after they sold their stock in initial public offerings.

Established technology giants such as Intel and Microsoft also are providing venture capital to startups.

The allure of a windfall isn't the only draw for corporate America. …