Advanta Corp. this week filed notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it may use the proceeds from up to $1.5 billion of debt issues to acquire portfolios of credit card and home equity loans.
An acquisition strategy would be a departure for the Horsham, Pa., company, which is known for its growth through originating its own loans. Some analysts said the time may be right for Advanta to buy business in bulk.
"From a credit card portfolio availability standpoint, it makes a lot of sense," said Robert K. Hammer, chairman and chief executive officer of R.K. Hammer Investment Bankers, a credit card advisory firm in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
"They have the infrastructure in place to do that, the finance team to do the proper due diligence, and an excellent reputation" that would allow Advanta to retain customers following an acquisition, Mr. Hammer added.
This year, $1.7 billion in credit card receivables has been sold in portfolios ranging in size from $5 million to more than $700 million, Mr. Hammer said. The volume in the first six months of this year is already greater than all of last year.
He said the buyers have paid as little as 3% of the face value of loans in a portfolio and as much as 23%. The average is about 20% and rising, he said, with most portfolios fetching 15% to 23%.
Some large credit card issuers have been selling portions of their credit card exposure as part of their portfolios management program. Previously, most sellers were small to midsize banks exiting the business.
To be sure, others said that an acquisition was unlikely in the immediate future.
Moshe Orenbuch, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said he recently asked Advanta executives about acquisitions. "They said, bottom line, since we can originate at cheaper prices than we can buy and we also have control over the process, then we don't think we're going to bother."
Nonetheless, Mr. Orenbuch said that if Advnata's internal growth were to slow significantly, and portfolios became available at reasonable prices, Advanta might consider it.
Janet M. Point, investor relations representative at Advanta, said the company is keeping its options open by stating in its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it may make acquisitions.
Mark Girolamo, a bond analyst at Bear Stearns & Co. also said he considered an acquisition by Advanta to be unlikely in the short term, adding that any purchases would probably be strategic and small.
"We're not talking about full-company-type acquisitions," he said. "If a small bank or some other entity in the business wanted to sell its credit card portfolio, it might make sense" for Advanta to buy it.