Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. is in talks to buy a Ford Motor Co. financing unit in India as a way to secure an additional license to beef up what it can offer clients in that expanding market.

We are in advanced discussions with Ford but it is too early to confirm the outcome, a London-based spokeswoman for the U.S.-based bank said on Wednesday.

Because India is not issuing new licenses to sell financial products into the country, a secondary market for them has opened up.

Bear Stearns is already registered as a foreign institutional investor in India and offers some services, such as buying Indian equity for overseas clients, but it cannot sell other products into the market.

We are looking at ways of building our presence in India as an important factor in our international growth plans, the spokeswoman said. We are keen to identify the best way to build on our existing services to clients in India.

The bank would not confirm the 900 million rupees ($22.09 million) price tag for Ford Automotive Finance Co. reported by the Economic Times newspaper.

The report also said Bear Stearns plans to invest 1 billion rupees ($24.54 million) to comply with the Indian regulations and start a fully fledged financial services company.

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. on Tuesday agreed to buy the institutional equities business of Indian brokerage Brics Securities for an undisclosed sum, another sign of the growing interest by banks in the market.

India has about 1,050 registered foreign institutional investors, data from the market regulator Securities & Exchange Board of India showed, with 32 asset management firms managing over 4 trillion rupees ($99 billion).

The list of foreign institutional investors operating in India include Citigroup, UBS, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.