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I Want My IPO

Ryan Beck wants its own ticker symbol. The infusion of capital could propel them to new heights, especially with favorable market conditions at their back

Ryan Beck wants its own ticker symbol. And after the recent wave of IPO successes enjoyed by rival U.S. brokerage houses, who can blame the small regional brokerage?

The Florham Park, N.J., firm submitted a request for an initial public offering with the SEC on April 17. The proceeds from the stock auction will be used to pay off some of the debt incurred by its parent BankAtlantic, a community bank in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in operating the brokerage. Ryan Beck plans to raise $100 million with the offering, but the price and number of shares to be issued haven't yet been determined, according to the filing. The shares are expected to trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker RBCO.

β€œIt's a good time for them to try and go public,” says Phil Stiller, an IPO research analyst at Renaissance Capital in Greenwich, Conn. β€œM&A activity has been very strong. And the brokerage business has done well recently.”

The move comes on the heels of a similar step by French bank Societe Generale, which filed to spin off Cowen & Co. in March. Indeed, the IPO market has been sizzling of late. In February, San Francisco-based Thomas Weisel raised $90 million in an IPO, and its shares have jumped nearly 35 percent since the offering date. And in May 2005, investment bank Lazard raised $855 million with its offering, the largest IPO for a securities firm since Goldman Sachs went public in 1999. Shares have almost doubled to $46.

This isn't the first time Ryan Beck has bellied up to the public offering table. In 1986, Ryan Beck & Co. went public, raising $30 million through Merrill Lynch underwriters. Then in 1998, BankAtlantic purchased it for $35.9 million. A curious union, many speculated at the time, given their geographic and cultural differences, but the hope was that each firm would be able to cross-sell each other's products. That chemistry never materialized.

Founded in 1946, Ryan Beck houses 424 retail brokers and manages customer assets of $18.6 billion. The infusion of capital could propel them to new heights, especially with favorable market conditions at their back, Stiller says. BankAtlantic is likely to maintain a majority stake in the firm and sell off some shares at the IPO. Ryan Beck has hired J.P. MorganChase to lead-manage its IPO while Ryan Beck will serve as its sole co-manager on the deal.

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