Exclusive: National Financial Partners explores sale - sources

NEW YORK Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:27pm EDT

Jessica Bibliowicz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of National Financial Partners, speaks at the Reuters Wealth Management Summit in New York, November 1, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Jessica Bibliowicz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of National Financial Partners, speaks at the Reuters Wealth Management Summit in New York, November 1, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - National Financial Partners NFP.N, the New York-based wealth management company headed by Sandy Weill's daughter Jessica Bibliowicz, is exploring a potential sale, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The company, which is made up from a series of acquisitions of smaller advisory firms, has reached out to private equity firms about a possible deal, said the people, who declined to be identified because they are not allowed to speak to the media.

National Financial, which has a market value of around $800 million, is working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC.N) on a potential sale, the people said on Tuesday.

The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Bank of America declined to comment.

National Financial, like many independent brokerage firms, experienced difficulties during the market downturn of 2008 and at one point that year saw its stock hit a low of $1.21 per share.

Its stock is currently trading above $20 per share.

Last month, National Financial reported fourth-quarter net income of $19.4 million or 45 cents per share, up from $11.2 million or 27 cents per share in the year ago quarter.

Total revenues for the fourth quarter grew 3.8 percent to $300.1 million from $289.2 million in the prior year's quarter, beating analysts' projections.

A sale of National Financial would come almost a year after Bibliowicz stepped down as president of the company in April 2012. The company announced at that time that she would also be stepping down as chief executive officer at the end of March 2013, at which point she will become non-executive chair.

(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel in New York; editing by Soyoung Kim and Carol Bishopric)

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