* Canada asset manager sought bids at request of founders
* Says no longer searching for bids
* Shares fall 5.6 pct but still up in 2013
* Canadian banks driving M&A among wealth managers
By Cameron French
TORONTO, April 15 (Reuters) - Canadian asset manager Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc recently sought bids for the company, but it said on Monday it has decided to hold off on a sale for now, triggering a sharp slide in its shares.
In a statement responding to a Globe and Mail report that the company was entertaining offers, Gluskin said it had explored the possibility of a sale at the request of founding shareholders Ira Gluskin and Gerald Sheff.
However, it said the search for bids had concluded.
“The founders, the board and management have concluded that the current platform remains an excellent way to serve clients and enhance shareholder value at this time,” the company said in a statement.
It did not rule out the possibility of a future sale.
The Toronto-based company’s shares, which were up 35 percent in 2013 coming into the session, sharply outperforming the 1.3 percent rise of the TSX financials index, were down 5.6 percent at C$17.78 by mid-morning.
Gluskin, which has assets under management of C$5.7 billion, would have obvious appeal for Canada’s six biggest banks, who have all expressed the desire to build up their wealth management businesses, both in Canada and internationally.
Just last week, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said it would buy Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management from money manager Invesco Ltd for $210 million, while in late March, Toronto-Dominion Bank completed its $668 million acquisition of Epoch Investments.
“It’s a consolidating business at the end of the day, and certainly the banks have shown great interest in consolidating the space,” said Peter Routledge, an analyst at National Bank Financial.
The banks, which are dealing with slowing growth in their core domestic lending businesses, like the predictable fee generation potential of the wealth management business.
Gluskin’s business would have extra appeal, as it focuses on high net-worth clients with a minimum investment of C$3 million, a segment many of the banks covet.
However, the banks are also under pressure from shareholders to be prudent in acquisitions and keep costs down, and the recent run-up in Gluskin’s shares likely make it less appealing to a potential buyer.