November 8, 2010 / 8:25 PM / 8 years ago

REFILE-Raymond James eyes expansion as valuations improve

(Refile to add word industry to first paragraph)

* Investment banking valuations “sane”-Raymond James COO

* Raymond James could acquire “in the foreseeable future”

* Small investors face hurdles from Dodd-Frank-RJF COO

By Alina Selyukh

NEW YORK, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Raymond James Financial (RJF.N) is considering acquisitions as the investment banking firm industry’s valuations are leveling off after the crisis, its chief operating officer told Reuters on Monday.

The St. Petersburg, Florida-based brokerage and investment bank is expanding conservatively, but COO Chet Helck said that the market’s recent turnout after pricetags on potential takeover candidates sky-rocketed during the crisis may create attractive opportunities even for a “fiscally managed” company.

“Today we certainly see the valuations of firms in our industry as more sane than they were in the past,” Helck told Reuters television. “That argues for the fact that there may well be acquisitions that we could complete in the foreseeable future.”

Raymond James signaled an interest in small takeovers last month when its chairman Thomas James also forecast a bounce back in the company’s recruitment of bigger banks’ brokers, which peaked in 2009. [ID:nN21187570]

The independent brokerage has been one of the stronger regional players challenging larger Wall Street rivals. It has selectively bought competitors throughout the crisis, focusing on small firms like Lane Berry, a boutique bank it acquired in May 2009.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s annual meeting, Helck also said he expected higher pressure on retail investors from the new fiduciary standard under the Dodd-Frank Act.

“With increased regulation, there’s always an increased cost,” he said, echoing the concerns expressed by other executives speaking at the conference. [ID:nN08271540]

Helck specifically said the smaller investors could face what he called an “unintended consequence” as they would be confronted with much higher barriers and costs to getting financial advice.

Raymond James, a long-time opponent of wider regulatory reach, has not started budgeting for the costs it may incur from the new regulation, Helck said. (Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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