Ken Griffin's Citadel to Sell E*Trade Financial (ETFC) ~ market folly

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ken Griffin's Citadel to Sell E*Trade Financial (ETFC)

Ken Griffin's hedge fund Citadel Investment Group plans to sell a ton of its shares in E*Trade Financial (ETFC), a company it had aided in the past. As the company's largest shareholder, Citadel is planning to sell over 27 million shares.

Keep in mind that even after Citadel divests its almost 9% equity stake, they still own a sizable chunk of convertible debt. If converted, this would ratchet their stake to almost 30% ownership. But this is not the first time Griffin's firm has sold shares, as Citadel sold ETFC back in late 2009 when shares traded around $1.20 per share. Since then, the shares have undergone a 1:10 reverse split and shares trade around $15.85 today.

The company underwent turbulent times during the financial crisis as it strayed from its stock brokerage roots and into the mortgage market right at the peak. After slowly but surely returning solely to its core business, the company still sits in limbo as shares are only up around 2% over the past year.

Hedge fund legend Leon Cooperman and his Omega Advisors are long E*Trade and see it as a potential takeover target. (To see the rest of Omega Advisors' portfolio, head to our new issue of Hedge Fund Wisdom). This seems to be the common investment thesis on ETFC as many investors argue it could be a prime asset to bigger houses like TD Ameritrade (AMTD) or Charles Schwab (SCHW). This thesis has not played out over the past few years (obviously). Perhaps activity in this regard would be spurred once interest rates start to rise, as this would help improve brokerage profitability.

Per Google Finance, E*Trade Financial is "a financial services company, which provides online brokerage and related products and services to the individual retail investors, under the brand E*TRADE Financial. It also provides investor-focused banking products, sweep deposits and savings products, to retail investors."

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