) --

Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report

has discussed a sale or joint venture involving its Van Kampen mutual fund unit, according to reports by


and trade publication

Pensions & Investments


One possible deal under discussion involved Morgan Stanley taking a stake in Atlanta-based


(IVZ) - Get Report

, the


report stated. Other firms approached about possible deals were

Nuveen Investments


Aberdeen Asset Management



reported. A Morgan Stanley spokeswoman declined to comment. Spokespersons at Invesco, Nuveen and Aberdeen could not immediately be reached.

Like most large financial companies, Morgan Stanley recovered from a near-death experience last fall following the bankruptcy of

Lehman Brothers

. However, its performance has lagged rivals such as

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report


JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

this year, due to a more cautious approach to putting its capital at risk.

The reports are somewhat surprising, since asset management, particularly for retail clients, has appeared to be an increasing part of the bank's strategy coming out of the crisis. Morgan Stanley acquired a majority stake in


(C) - Get Report

Smith Barney brokerage unit earlier this year, and mutual fund products and retail brokerage are often seen as complementary businesses.


Written by Dan Freed in New York