Morgan Stanley Becomes A Bank, Gets Overseas Investment

Thanks to the Fed’s actions last week, Morgan Stanley (MS) has averted an emergency sale to Wachovia (WB), received permission to become a bank holding company, and has sold a minority stake to Japan’s Mitsubishi. The company is going to try to remain independent, for now anyway.

With the competitive landscape having changed in recent days, namely fewer competitors in the investment banking marketplace, the stronger players who can whether this liquidity storm will clearly be in a great position to take market share in this volatile environment.

It will be interesting to see if Goldman Sachs (GS) seeks a partner of some kind, or simply builds its bank holding company on its own. Outright mergers with banks are less likely now with the Fed’s intervention, but leverage ratios and funding sources still need to be refined to protect against future shocks to the financial system, which are certain to occur.

Given the uncertainty of how all of these things play out, my view on the investment banks has not changed (see my piece entitled Investment Banks Nothing More Than Black Boxes). I still prefer commercial banks due to more transparency of how they make their money, as well as far lower leverage ratios. If leverage falls meaningfully and investment banks disclose more in the future about what they hold, that opinion could potentially shift, just not yet.

Full Disclosure: No position in GS, MS, or WB at the time of writing

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