BMO to sell EMEA asset management unit for $870 million to focus on North America

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Bank of Montreal (BMO) is seen on their flagship location on Bay Street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 16, 2017. Picture taken March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

(Reuters) -Canada’s Bank of Montreal said on Monday it has agreed to sell its EMEA asset management business to Ameriprise Financial Inc for C$1.1 billion ($870 million) in an all-cash transaction to increase its focus on North America.

Canada’s fourth-largest lender will take a C$745 million write-down of goodwill after tax in the second quarter of fiscal 2021 as a result of the transaction, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of calendar 2021, BMO said.

It joins a clutch of banks globally that are looking to either sell or merge their asset management units to gain scale. BMO itself sold its private banking business in Hong Kong and Singapore in January, joining Canadian counterparts which have been offloading non-core operations outside North America.

“Concentrating on the North American market, and Canada in particular, is the right strategic decision,” analysts at CIBC Capital Markets wrote in a note. “The goodwill charge and limited earnings impact from the sale suggest that the international asset manager has seen declining profitability over time.”

BMO shares gained 0.1% to C$115 in morning trading in Toronto, versus a 0.15% decline in the Toronto stock benchmark.

The bank’s overall wealth management business managed C$518.7 billion as of Jan. 31, and accounted for 18% of total adjusted earnings in the first quarter. BMO does not break down its wealth management unit by geography.

The wealth management industry is seeing some shakeup. Societe Generale is in exclusive talks to sell most of asset manager Lyxor to Amundi, while Wells Fargo & Co in February agreed to sell its asset management business.

Reuters reported last week that Swiss bank Credit Suisse is exploring options for its asset management arm.

($1 = 1.2541 Canadian dollars)

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