By Brian Chappatta (Bloomberg)
It’s official: Charles Schwab Corp. has agreed to buy TD Ameritrade Holding for $26 billion in an all-stock transaction. Now the question on Wall Street is whether the acquisition, which would create a behemoth with $5 trillion in assets, will come under scrutiny from antitrust regulators.
There are a number of arguments for an antitrust review. For one, Schwab is the market leader in safeguarding assets managed by registered investment advisers, holding about half the market. By purchasing TD Ameritrade, it would add another 15% to 20% share, according to a note from Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. The deal also could allow Schwab to boost fees on other services, or reduce interest paid to investors on their accounts. Effectively, the company eliminated commissions for US stocks, exchange-traded funds and options, but that headline-grabbing move could very well mask hidden charges elsewhere.
Bloomberg News’s Felice Maranz and David McLaughlin compiled a roundup of analysts’ expectations. Cowen analyst Jaret Seiberg suggested regulatory scrutiny could stretch into the third quarter of 2020. UBS’s Brennan Hawken sees “a lot of execution risk.” Bank of America Corp.’s Michael Carrier said Toronto-Dominion Bank’s 43% stake in TD Ameritrade could cause “some complications,” including tougher regulatory approval.
While the potential hurdles are very real and Wall Street’s concern about them are valid, I’d add another concern: namely, that combining Schwab and TD Ameritrade could be considered “anti-trust” in a different way.