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Diversifying E-Trade to Buy LoansDirect

E-commerce: The company hopes acquisition of online mortgage broker will help it weather a shaky stock market.

January 12, 2001|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

E-Trade Group Inc., moving to diversify in order to weather the shaky stock market, said Thursday it will buy LoansDirect.com, a closely held online mortgage broker.

Although specific terms weren't disclosed, E-Trade said the transaction will involve an exchange of stock.

Huntington Beach-based LoansDirect, a major provider of online mortgages, will become part of E-Trade's bank subsidiary. With the deal, which is expected to be completed in about 30 days, E-Trade hopes to diversify beyond a dicey stock market that has cut into its brokerage commissions.

E-Trade rival Charles Schwab Corp. already owns a stake in another Web lender, ELoan Inc.

Investors greeted the deal enthusiastically. E-Trade's stock surged $2.09 a share, or nearly 21%, to $12.06, in Nasdaq trading.

LoansDirect, which does business in 48 states, funded $1.78 billion in mortgages last year, and expects to boost its output to $3 billion this year.

The company said it expects lower interest rates to trigger more refinancing. A couple of online lenders also have folded, including Mortgage.com, leaving fewer competitors.

The company said it expects its 280 employees, including managers, to be retained after the acquisition.

E-Trade said the purchase is expected to immediately boost its revenue and earnings.

"E-Trade will gain a high-performance company which has had solid revenue, positive earnings, technical expertise and an experienced management team," Mitchell Caplan, the firm's chief banking officer, said in a statement.

A year ago, E-Trade completed its $1.9-billion purchase of Telebanc Financial Corp., an online bank that has become E-Trade Bank. E-Trade Bank now has more than $5.7 billion in deposits.

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