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Why Won't Anyone Buy E*TRADE?

By Evan Niu, CFA - Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 4:45PM

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E*TRADE concludes its strategic review and stays independent.

Contrary to popular belief, E*TRADE Financial (Nasdaq: ETFC) will continue to go it alone.

The discount broker has been working with Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) to review the company's strategic alternatives, which included a possible sale of the whole company to a larger suitor. It did so at the behest of its largest investor, hedge fund Citadel.

E*TRADE has now announced that the review, which began in early August, has concluded and that the company will remain independent, and its continued execution of its business plan is the best way to maximize shareholder value. It was a unanimous decision from the Board that was in line with Goldman's recommendations.

Talk of an E*TRADE sale has literally been around for years, and there was even a time when I was a believer. While it's true that every iteration of speculation sounds more credible as time goes on, shareholders shouldn't be holding their collective breath.

The brokerage business is strong, with last quarter's commission revenue putting up a 27% increase. It would be a natural fit with Charles Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW) or TD AMERITRADE (Nasdaq: AMTD). Schwab should be busy integrating its recent acquisition of optionsXpress, which closed a couple months ago.

The primary hurdle is, and has always been, E*TRADE's troubled loan portfolio that it has been working diligently to shrink over the years.

Last quarter, the loan portfolio shrank by $700 million and now sits at $13 billion. Compare that to the $25.5 billion that represented its loan portfolio three years ago, at the onset of the financial crisis. While the company has certainly made headway in winding down its loan portfolio, there's still some work to do before any company would consider swallowing E*TRADE whole.

For now, the status quo will just have to do, even as the discount brokerage industry is ripe for consolidation. Sorry, E*TRADE shareholders, you're going to have to keep waiting on this one.

Fool contributor Evan Niu holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Goldman Sachs and Charles Schwab. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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