Exclusive-Wealth manager Americana Partners bid $25 a share for Westwood Holdings Group

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BOSTON (Reuters) -Wealth manager Americana Partners has made a $25 a share bid for Westwood Holdings Group, offering a nearly 28% premium to take the publicly traded financial advisory and mutual fund firm private, sources familiar with the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: A picture illustration shows U.S. banknotes. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Westwood said in a statement it had reviewed two bids from Americana, including the one for $25 per share, and are rejecting both. The bids are too low and executives are not certain that Americana would be able to finance the transaction, it said.

Houston-based Americana made the all-cash offer for Westwood, which is based in Dallas and has roughly $15 billion in assets under management, last month, the sources said.

News of the unsolicited bid sent Westwood’s stock up as much as 19% on Wednesday, leaving it to trade at $23.30 by early afternoon.

A representative for Americana declined to comment.

Including Wednesday’s jump, Westwood’s stock price has climbed some 63% since January. But Americana believes that Westwood has produced negative returns over three- and five-year periods. Americana also believes Westwood could perform better out of the spotlight of the public markets, the people said.

Americana wants to expand across Texas and sees potential in Westwood’s wealth and trust businesses, the sources said.

The bid was made shortly after Westwood’s largest investor, James C. Pappas’ JCP Investment Management, which owns 10.37% of Westwood, began pushing management and the board more publicly to consider alternatives for the firm, including a sale.

In a regulatory filing in April, Pappas said that he intended to speak with management and the board about strategic options.

A representative for JCP declined to comment.

Westwood chief executive officer Brian Casey said on Wednesday that cost cuts and investments in technology are paying off, however.

“Westwood is now on a more clear path to growth,” Casey said in the statement. “We are even more confident in our ability to carry out our current plan.”

A wave of consolidation has hit the asset management and wealth management industry at a time when low interest rates and investor preferences for inexpensive index funds have made it tougher for stand-alone firms to compete with rivals such as BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager.

Legg Mason was acquired by Franklin Resources last year and Eaton Vance was purchased by financial services company Morgan Stanley this year.

Last year was record-setting for wealth sector deals, with more than 200 completed, according to research firm Echelon Partners.

Americana Partners, which has offices in Houston, Dallas and Austin, was formed in 2019 when its principals spun off from Morgan Stanley.

It has roughly $4.5 billion in assets under management.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; editing by Jason Neely and Sonya Hepinstall

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