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Why Shares of E*Trade Financial Fell Today

By Lou Whiteman - Nov 21, 2019 at 7:04PM

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A merger between rivals could make life a lot more difficult for the discount brokerage.

What happened

Shares of E*Trade Financial ( ETFC ) fell 9.3% on Thursday, a day dominated by headlines about potential consolidation in the discount-brokerage sector. Unfortunately for E*Trade, it was not the target involved in the acquisition rumor, leading to fears that the company could be left behind if its rivals team up.

So what

E*Trade investors ran for the exits on Thursday on reports that Charles Schwab ( SCHW 1.17% ) and TD Ameritrade Holdings ( AMTD ) are in talks to combine. A deal would create a brokerage powerhouse with $5 trillion in combined assets and continue a trend of industry consolidation that's been led by TD Ameritrade and E*Trade.

A finger pointing to a stock chart that's pointing down.

Image source: Getty Images.

Analysts have long expected additional dealmaking in the sector, and many had predicted an eventual tie-up between E*Trade and Ameritrade. A Schwab/Ameritrade deal would cost E*Trade two potential partners and put it at a competitive disadvantage if it remains on its own.

Now what

A Schwab/Ameritrade deal would be a temporary setback for E*Trade, but the company has plenty of other options. Companies including Interactive Brokers remain independent and would be a potential partner, and Fox Business' Charles Gasparino tweeted on Thursday afternoon that Goldman Sachs could be interested in buying E*Trade or a large retail bank to expand its presence in consumer banking.

E*Trade on its own still has a lot going for it, as well. Last month, UBS upgraded the company based on the strength of its "leading corporate services offering and active trader platform." Not all is lost for E*Trade, but if Schwab and Ameritrade do end up merging, the challenge it faces is about to get a lot more difficult.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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Stocks Mentioned

E*TRADE Financial Corporation Stock Quote
E*TRADE Financial Corporation
The Charles Schwab Corporation Stock Quote
The Charles Schwab Corporation
$81.31 (1.17%) $0.94
TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation Stock Quote
TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Stock Quote
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
$400.11 (2.78%) $10.81
Interactive Brokers Group, Inc. Stock Quote
Interactive Brokers Group, Inc.
$76.77 (1.68%) $1.27

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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