Stifel Financial Corp and Raymond James Financial Inc (RJF.N) are in talks with Regions Financial Corp (RF.N) to buy its Morgan Keegan unit, sources familiar with the matter said.
A decision on the deal for the Memphis, Tennessee-based brokerage is not expected before next year, one of the sources said.
The auction of Morgan Keegan has dragged on as financing markets deteriorated this summer and the unit's operations faced a challenging environment amid intense market volatility driven by the European debt crisis.
Potential buyers cut back on the price they were willing to offer for Morgan Keegan, with some dropping their bids below $1 billion, forcing Regions to return to buyers it had initially turned away, sources said.
Morgan Keegan has a book value of about $1.5 billion and Regions had offered to provide up to $200 million in financing to the buyer, sources have said previously. The regional U.S. bank also plans to take a $250 million cash dividend from Morgan Keegan before closing on a sale of the unit, effectively adding to the purchase price.
Regions had resumed talks with Stifel a few weeks ago after bids from two private-equity consortiums that had advanced in the auction came in lower than expected. But the exclusivity period of talks with Stifel also expired without a deal, prompting Regions to go back to Raymond James, which had initially expressed an interest in the business, the sources said.
Alabama-based Regions bought Morgan Keegan for $789 million in 2001, just after the tech stock rally peaked and as most commercial banks snapped up fee-producing regional brokerages and trading firms. Morgan Keegan, which has more than 1,200 financial advisers, was formed in 1969.
Raymond James Financial, Stifel Financial and Regions Financial could not be reached for comment during normal business hours. (Reporting by Paritosh Bansal in New York and Kartick Jagtap in Bangalore; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)