Royal Bank of Canada, which has made a steady string of niche acquisitions in the United States, moved to streamline its operations here with a deal Monday to divest its Bull & Bear Securities Inc. online brokerage subsidiary.
Two years after buying the New York brokerage for $6 million, Royal Bank said it is selling the unit's customer accounts and assets to JB Oxford Holdings Inc. for an undisclosed amount. The deal is expected to close in June.
Royal Bank officials said that subsequent acquisitions in its three-year, $6 billion U.S. campaign had negated the value of Bull & Bear, an early addition to its roster. In addition the banking company said it recently changed its U.S. investment products strategy to focus more on full-service brokerage and wealth management.
"Essentially, the self-directed brokerage is not a priority for us now, so we decided we would divest the Bull & Bear client base," said Graeme Harris, a spokesman for Royal Bank.
Instead, Royal Bank will offer full-service brokerage and wealth management in the United States through Centura Banks Inc., which it agreed to buy in January for $2.3 billion, and the Dain Rauscher Corp. subsidiary that it bought last year for $1.5 billion, Mr. Harris said. (The Centura deal is scheduled to close this quarter.)
The banking company will continue to offer online discount brokerage services to Canadian customers through its Action Direct service, he said.
Royal Bank considered the implications of overlapping investment services at the time it bought Dain Rauscher of Minneapolis, Mr. Harris said. "But the pure attractiveness of the Dain Rauscher franchise was too compelling to worry about any of our other operations," he said.
JB Oxford will add Bull & Bear's 23,000 customer accounts and $250 million of assets to its existing 150,000 accounts, but Royal Bank will retain the Bull & Bear name, license, and real estate, Mr. Harris said.
Shaw Lively, research manager of eInvesting at International Data Corp., said abandoning its discount brokerage strategy in the United States may be a good move for Royal Bank.
"In the U.S. market, if you want to get scale, you need to put some dollars behind it in terms of building the brand awareness, and no one would characterize Bull & Bear as a real strong brand or a nationally known entity," Mr. Lively said.
Jamie Lewis, president of JB Oxford, said his Beverly Hills company plans to make further acquisitions.
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