Five months after filing for an initial public offering, LPL Financial appears poised to sell 16 to 17 million shares for a price targeted at $28.50 a share with a range of between $27 to $30 a share.
The size of the offering, which was expected to raise between $450 to $500 million, was slightly reduced from the initial filing in June. At that time, the stock market was reeling from the Greek debt crisis and the flash crash and many IPOs were postponed or canceled.
According to several investment bankers, the trend-driven, fickle IPO market today has come back somewhat but it is far more intrigued with plays on emerging markets than it is with financial services companies.
The IPO of the nation's largest independent brokerage firm will shine a spotlight on the low-profile independent world and increase its visibility. LPL itself will gain increased financial flexibility for both acquisitions and investments in the areas of technology and recruiting.
When debt is factored in, LPL will be accorded an enterprise value of $4.3 to $4.5 billion. That's an increase of about 80% since 2005, when two private equity firms--Hellman & Friedman and TPG--acquired a controlling interest in the business in a transaction valued at $2.5 billion.
More than 50% of the firm's revenues are derived from its $280 billion in asset under management and custody. If the financial markets remain at or near current levels, they could set up the firm to report strong numbers in its first quarter as a public company.
Some Wall Street investment bankers believe that TPG was the driving force behind the IPO for reasons that have nothing to do with LPL. In April 2008, TPG invested $1.35 billion to prop up Washington Mutual, the troubled mortgage lending giant. In September of that year, WaMu failed and TPG's entire investment was worthless. Clearly, the private equity firm had a powerful interest in demonstrating to institutional investors that it was capable of making successful investments in financial businesses.
The IPO provides a payday for hundreds of LPL executives and reps who own stock
and options in the firm. While many are selling a portion of their holdings, what they collectively decide to do with their securities over the next two years should prove instructive to the firm's future.
Between 1990 and 2005, LPL grew at an annual rate of almost 20%. That growth trajectory is unlikely to be matched going forward, given the firm's current size and the prospect for more subdued, normalized financial markets.
But the public shares provide LPL with a currency to do more acquisitions. If the firm can retain its current reps and continue to add new ones through recruiting and acquisitions, it should be able to maintain double-digit growth for the foreseeable future. That's something the wirehouses will struggle to achieve.