Multiple media outlets are reporting that Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) is considering shopping its asset management division, a deal that could be worth as much as $3 billion, according to anonymous sources.
The sources say that Wells Fargo has been in talks with other asset management companies and private equity firms, but also that nothing is done yet, and there is no guarantee the division will ultimately be sold.
The rumors come after what has been a hard year for the bank. Wells Fargo reported a $2.4 billion loss in the second quarter and has trimmed its dividend by 80%.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the bank had also been struggling due to its fake-accounts scandal. Regulators have fined it $3 billion for creating millions of fraudulent savings and credit card accounts, and placed a $1.95 trillion asset cap on the bank that has likely cost it billions in lost profits.
New CEO Charlie Scharf has vowed to correct the regulatory issues. He has also said on past earnings calls that the bank wants to cut annual expenses by $10 billion and that it would be exiting some business segments.
"And so I would expect, over the next couple of quarters, we will create some room on the balance sheet by exiting some things that aren't core," Scharf said on the company's third-quarter earnings call.
But he added: "I just want to be clear. We're exiting them because they aren't core to serving our core customer base on the consumer and large corporate side. We're not exiting them because of the asset cap. I think that will help."
At the end of the third quarter, Wells Fargo had $607 billion in assets under management in its asset management division, which is up 21% year over year. The wealth and investment management division of Wells Fargo, which includes the asset management arm, generated a $463 million profit in the third quarter on total revenue of nearly $3.8 billion .
Wells Fargo will likely be able to find plenty of suitors right now, as the asset management industry is ripe for consolidation. This year alone, Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) has purchased E*Trade and Eaton Vance (NYSE:EV), and experts only expect mergers and acquisitions activity in the space to pick up.