CIBC Wood Gundy Securities Inc., owned by one of Canada's largest banks, will probably announce plans shortly-possibly today-to buy Oppenheimer & Co.
The deal will reportedly be valued at $525 million, with CIBC Wood Gundy offering $350 million in cash up front and $175 million to be paid out during the next three years to retain key personnel at the New York securities firm.
Officials at both companies declined to comment Monday, but industry analysts in Toronto and New York said such a transaction would not be out of character for CIBC Wood Gundy, a subsidiary of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
Buying Oppenheimer would be "pretty consistent with what CIBC has indicated they wanted to do," said Canadian banking industry analyst M. Michael Goldberg of HSBC James Capel Canada. "They have been building a pretty substantial investment banking presence in the U.S. over all, and one of the key parts of their picture was equity underwriting."
Other analysts noted that CIBC Wood Gundy's management declared publicly in June that the company was looking to acquire a securities firm. CIBC and Oppenheimer are believed to have been in talks since Oppenheimer's merger negotiations with PNC Bank Corp., Pittsburgh, fell through a month ago.
Banking analysts doubted that a combination of CIBC and Oppenheimer would prompt much reaction, at least among Canadian banks.
"I don't think buying Oppenheimer is going to set the ball in motion" for Canadian banks, emphasized bank bond analyst Eric Grubelich of Keefe Bruyette & Woods Inc., New York. Most banks, he said, "are not willing to pay big prices to get into the securities industry."
Other analysts noted that the half-dozen major Canadian banks-of which CIBC has been the most active-have been steadily and quietly building a presence in the United States for much of the past decade.
In general, they have tried to build on their own strength "as opposed to playing follow the leader," said banking analyst A. Roy Palmer of TD Securities Inc., Toronto. For example, he pointed out that Bank of Montreal bought securities firm Nesbitt Burns 10 years ago.
Most analysts are bullish about the prospect of a combination of CIBC and Oppenheimer, although some are concerned that the Canadian company will be unable to retain Oppenheimer's top talent.
One market source who asked not to be identified noted that big U.S. commercial banks have been able to stem any major outflow of talent from their recently acquired securities firms.
At Oppenheimer, however, the situation is clearly different. "Management is looking to get out," he said. "In that sense, CIBC is not getting the kind of value that the other banks got from their purchases since what you are buying is people."
But Mr. Goldberg pointed out that CIBC has important experience in holding on to vital personnel in a securities and investment banking firm, having managed to keep many such employees when it acquired Wood Gundy.