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The Boston Banks Eyeing Advest

Inside Wall Street


You name it. Practically every name in the securities or investment banking business has been tossed in the air as a takeover target--especially since BankAmerica announced on June 9 it would acquire San Francisco's Robertson Stephens, a privately held investment bank.

One name yet to circulate widely as buyout bait is Advest Group (ADV), a Big Board-listed regional brokerage and investment bank in Hartford. Lately, however, some scattered rumors have had certain takeover players snapping up shares.

These pros say that two major Boston banks seeking to spread their wings have informally approached Advest officials, including a large stakeholder who owns more than 5% of the stock.

A New York investment manager familiar with the approach says both suitors wanted the cooperation of the large shareholder for a friendly buyout of Advest--at 30 to 35 a share. That's 2 to 21/2 times its estimated book value of $14 a share. Advest was trading at 16 before it hit a new high at 177/8 on June 11.

The big Advest shareholder also had a stake in Alex. Brown & Sons when Bankers Trust announced in April its intention of acquiring the Baltimore-based firm. The New York money manager points out that this big investor bought stakes in several brokerages in anticipation of a takeover. So it's more than likely, he says, that if a deal comes about, it will be friendly.

He says that both Boston outfits scouting Advest like its operations, including retail brokerage, investment banking, stock trading, and asset management--for institutions and retail customers. With 80 offices, Advest has clients in all 50 states, with a concentration in the Northeast and the Midwest. The company also owns Advest Bank, a Connecticut-chartered thrift that would fit the operations of either suitor. Advest didn't return calls.BY GENE G. MARCIALReturn to top

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