Chase Manhattan


is trying to strike an agreement to buy the U.K.'s

Robert Fleming Holdings

for about $6 billion, according to



The news service, citing people familiar with the situation, said Saturday that Chase could wrap up its bid to acquire the big merchant bank as early as next week.

Officials at Chase couldn't immediately be reached by


to comment.

The deal would help Chase expand in Asia, where Fleming manages more than $30 billion for individual and institutional investors and controls

Jardine Fleming

, once Hong Kong's biggest broker, Bloomberg said. New York-based Chase opened offices in Asia 75 years ago and employs 3,500 people in 12 Asian countries, Bloomberg reported.

Chase has been expanding beyond basic banking in the U.S. with its acquisition of San Francisco investment bank

Hambrecht & Quist

and its

aggressive push into venture capital. (

Chase Capital Partners

, the VC unit, is an investor in


, publisher of this Web site.)

For Robert Fleming, the deal also would lend the family-owned, London-based bank the clout to compete for international banking and fund business, the news service said.

Fleming has 7,800 employees and manages more than $140 billion, including a $35 billion joint venture in the U.S. with Baltimore-based

T. Rowe Price

(TROW) - Get Report

, which probably would be excluded from any transaction with Chase, Bloomberg said.