Envestnet go-private sale odds plummet after Bill Crager's answer to analyst's question over the possibility; stock craters, cutting chances of it happening to one-in-four, analyst says
Investors responded to the Envestnet CEO's remarks -- and analyst takes - of yesterday's earnings call by sending company shares down sharply, while president Stuart DePina's future role remains murky.
Brooke's Note: I hope the new odds are right and Envestnet stays the course. The leadership and direction of the firm seem solid, and it's able to plow an annual $50 million back into reinventing the company. It's high-powered bootstrapping by a trustworthy crew with big ambitions but no illusions of grandeur about rates of growth. The RIA business rarely grows at insane rates, or does it need to. Envestnet had good inflows in the first quarter amid a world of asset management outflows. Something is going right.
Envestnet's widely anticipated sale could be off the table, after CEO Bill Crager sidestepped questions on the company's valuation and prospective takeover, leading one analyst to peg the likelihood of a deal at less than 25%.
Crager also delivered an "I-got-this" to analysts in guiding them to expect Envestnet's administered assets to leap $4.5 trillion to $10 trillion regardless of any help from outsiders in a few short years.
"I won't comment on any rumor or speculation that's out there in the press. If there was ever anything that we felt we needed to convey [or] announce, we would, of course, do that, but our focus has been very much on execution," Crager said during the company's May 5 earnings call.
The Berwyn, Pa., outsourcer's share price slumped, following the call, reflecting growing investor uncertainty that a deal potentially worth up to $8 billion is still on the cards. See: Bill Crager says Envestnet is about growth 'period!' after Barron's article, citing five 'sources,' claimed his firm retained Piper Sandler for a possible sale.
Yesterday, Envestnet's shares (ENV) slipped 5.5% to $75.11 in a broad downdraft. Today, it fell solo a further 10.4% to $67.27 [as of 3:10 pm ET], wiping out all gains made since the news of the sale broke.
The decline outpaced an overall sell-off across all markets that sent the NASDAQ down 5% yesterday and 1.43% today.
When reports of Envestnet's prospective sale first surfaced (Feb. 22), its share price jumped 11% to $71. By Apr. 18, it traded at $83.57, 3% off a 52-week high of $85.99. Shares, however, are still far from their 52-week low of $64.70.
Analysts at New York City investment bank Jefferies Group now peg the chances of a deal at less than 25%, according to a copy of the note provided to RIABiz by the firm.
"Either the talks have broken down or a deal has been reached, but management is waiting to announce it as they do not want to detract from the annual advisor summit, which is next week," the note states.
"[It's] a coin toss," JMP Securities analysts Devin Ryan and Brian McKenna say in a note to clients. "We're also not convinced conversations have concluded," the pair added.
JMP is small but influential San Francisco investment bank owned by Citizens Financial Group, Inc., headquartered in Providence, R.I.
JMP has yet to respond to a request for comment. Envestnet released a short statement.
"We don’t comment on rumor or speculation in the market but if and when we have something to announce, you’ll hear from us,” said a spokesperson, via email.
Crager also teased the fact that Envestnet is not willing to sell at a discount just because of short-term turbulence in the stock market.
"At our scale and size, with our market position with [our] supporting financials, you've got a very valuable enterprise ... There's incredible value being created here."
Indeed, he forecast that Envestnet could have as much as $10 trillion of assets under its administration by 2025, up from $5.5 trillion today. See: Envestnet just surpassed $5 trillion in assets and 108,000 advisors on its platform but profits were flatter as rising tide of inflows floats financial services boats.
Crager also declined to address the accuracy of reports that Envestnet president Stuart DePina is set to leave the firm other than to remind analysts about the tragedy they lived through together.
"Stuart and I have been partners for a very long time. He ran the Tamarac business. He ran the Yodlee business after Jud [Bergman]'s tragic passing [and at the time] we said, 'Hey this is the work we need to do.' We put our heads down," Crager explained.
"If there's anything that the company needed to announce [about DePina], we would announce it," Crager added.
DePina served as CEO of portfolio management software vendor Tamarac from 2007 to 2019, when he took over as Yodlee CEO, replacing Anil Arora. He became Envestnet president in March 2020. See: Anil Arora resigns from Envestnet board the same day as his new company gets backing at an eye-popping valuation.
Crager also hinted that current press coverage of Envestnet -- including reports of a sale -- risk crying wolf, during the company's earnings call.
He related an anecdote about Union General and former President Ulysses S. Grant. Early in his army career, Grant and a "salty guy from West Texas" were riding together one night and heard wolves howling.
The next day, the Texan asked Grant how many wolves he thought he heard. Grant answered "twenty."
"Well, they came upon the wolves... there were two. So there's always a little more noise than we would want. But we are head down on the execution of our strategy," Crager said.
Bloomberg first reported Envestnet was up for sale, Feb. 22. Barron's upped the ante (Feb. 23), reporting Envestnet retained Piper Sandler to sell the company. Then Citywire reported Warburg Pincus and Advent International were the last bidders standing.
Envestnet has been considered ripe for a takeover since co-founder and CEO Judd Bergman passed away tragically in a car accident in 2019. See: Jud Bergman, wife Mary Miller-Bergman die tragically in San Francisco head-on car collision, stunning a devastated RIA business community.
Piper Sandler has yet to respond to a request for comment. Both Warburg, which backs Edelman Financial Engines, and Advent International, which owns antivirus software company McAfee, declined to comment.
Based in Seattle, DePina joined Envestnet in 2012, following its acquisition of portfolio management software vendor Tamarac.
Should he leave the firm, it will signal the end of the era in which Envestnet operated as a many headed hydra.
Until recently, four of its top executives were experienced CEOs in their own right: Crager, DePina, Bergman, and Arora.
DePina's reportedly imminent departure come as Envestnet moves its headquarters from Chicago to Philadelphia.
The move leaves him at something of a loose end geographically, according to one industry observer. See: As take-private reports swirl, Envestnet moves Chicago headquarters to Berwyn, Pa. -- making Philly's Main Line a 'TAMP Central'.
Indeed, given Envestnet will soon close Tamarac's offices in Seattle, according to a Financial-Planning.com report, DePina's nearest physical point of contact with the firm he leads is 824.5 miles away in San Mateo, Calif.
Today Envestnet maintains ten offices, including a two-year old state-of-the-art Raleigh, N.C. office, one a piece in Denver, Colo., Powhatan, Va., San Mateo, and Sparks, Md., and four overseas bases, including a giant Trivandrum, India office, and a further three offices in Bangalore, India, London, U.K., and Sydney Australia.
Crager resides near Berwyn, Amy Norcini, public relations director at Envestnet, told RIABiz last month.
"The majority of the executive leadership team is based in Berwyn, or is within close proximity to this location," she added.
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July 27, 2022 – 2:27 AM
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April 6, 2021 – 12:50 AM
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November 10, 2020 – 2:45 AM
Top Executive: Jud Bergman