Financial-services giant American Express said yesterday it will spin off its financial-advisory business so that it can focus on the faster-growing...
NEW YORK — Financial-services giant American Express said yesterday it will spin off its financial-advisory business so that it can focus on the faster-growing charge and credit card, payments processing and travel businesses. Its shares rose more than 6 percent.
The announcement comes a day after Citigroup, the nation’s largest financial institution, said it was selling its Travelers life-insurance and annuity business to MetLife for $11.5 billion.
Both moves are aimed at improving the profitability of the parent company and suggest the “supermarket” approach to financial services so popular in the 1980s and 1990s may be cumbersome.
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New York-based American Express said shareholders would get all of the shares of the new company, which will include the American Express Financial Advisors unit, based in Minneapolis, as well as Threadneedle Asset Management, which it acquired in 2003.
The spinoff is to be completed in the third quarter.
Merrill Lynch upgraded American Express stock to “buy” from “neutral” on the news, saying the advisory business “has been a drag on American Express’ growth rate and returns for some time.”
American Express shares rose $3.40, or 6.4 percent, to close yesterday at $56.75, after surpassing their previous 52-week high of $57.05 earlier in the day. Citigroup shares advanced 43 cents to close at $49.48.
American Express stock was depressed in 2002 and 2003, in part because of investment losses in the advisory unit. Its share price has improved this year as American Express has begun capitalizing on court rulings that forced Visa and MasterCard associations to allow their member banks to issue American Express and Discover cards.
After the spinoff, American Express will be left with businesses that earned $2.7 billion on revenue of $22 billion last year. Including the financial advisory, it earned $3.4 billion on revenue of $29 billion in 2004.