* Biggest independent firm seeks niche acquisitions
* LPL went public last year
* Private equity firms remain large holders
By Joseph A. Giannone
NEW YORK, June 10 (Reuters) - LPL Investment Holdings Inc (LPLA.O), the largest “independent” broker-dealer, has little interest in buying other firms after several recent acquisitions, according to a senior executive.
The Boston-based company, which sold shares to the public for the first time last November, had been expected to use shares and its surging cash balances to bid on struggling independent firms currently on the block.
“We don’t see consolidation activity to be that compelling,” LPL Chief Financial Officer Robert Moore told investors at a Sandler O‘Neill & Partners conference on Thursday.
LPL, which provides brokerage services and products to more than 12,444 independent contractors operating under its name, is more interested in niche acquisitions that add new expertise or services to its repertoire, Moore said.
The 1,800-broker Securities America unit of Ameriprise Financial (AMP.N), the HD Vest independent unit of Wells Fargo & Co(WFC.N), and another small firm, Investors Capital Corp., have either indicated that they are for sale or rumored to be on the block.
“There are more discussions going on in the marketplace,” Moore said, drawing a distinction between buying other broker-dealers to build scale and “fill-in” purchases. “We’re seeing more of the latter than the former, and in terms of the former, they’re not particularly attractive to us,” he said.
LPL, controlled before the IPO by private equity firms Hellman & Friedman LLC and TPG Capital--which remain large shareholders, in 2010 bought National Retirement Partners Inc. and has agreed to buy Concord Capital Partners.
The deals fall into the niche category. Concord has 22 employees supporting the trust departments of banks and National Retirement has 350 advisers focusing on 401(k) and other plans.
Over the years, LPL has added nearly 3,600 financial advisers through acquisitions.
Known as Linsco/Private Ledger before the private equity firms bough a majority interest in December 2005, LPL in 2004 bought broker-dealers from insurers Phoenix Cos PNX.N, Pacific Life and Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO). It also owns Uvest Financial Services, which provides third-party brokerage to banks, also
Shares of LPL were trading down 2.4 percent at $34.79 in midday trading Friday. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 1.3 percent.
Reporting by Joseph A. Giannone;editing by Jed Horowitz