Last week rumors swirled that cryptocurrency exchange FTX may be looking to buy Robinhood as the company’s stock price continues to tumble. Despite denials from FTX founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, the idea has sparked curiosity about whether the self-directed brokerage would be acquired and who could be interested.
In a report compiled by investment bank JMP Securities on the potential sale to FTX, analysts at the Citizens Financial subsidiary suggested a low probability of the deal getting done, commensurate with public denials from Bankman-Fried, who notably purchased a 7.6% stake in Robinhood in may
That note attributed some of the interest in Robinhood to its material drop in stock price which was priced at $38 for its IPO, hit a high of $55.01 a week later and is currently trading at $8.97. Robinhood’s total market capitalization currently stands at a mere $7.8 billion today, potentially making it an easy mark for a much larger financial firm like Morgan Stanley
JMP Securities analysts see some value in the purchase for the second-largest crypto exchange in the world with an opportunity to acquire a meaningful US customer base in retail, a complement to its current business model despite some opacity because FTX is private.
From a sheer stock market valuation perspective, Robinhood’s 15.9 million active accounts are now valued at less than $500 per customer versus $3,600 per customer for Charles Schwab. When Morgan Stanley acquired E-Trade in 2020, the price was $13 billion which meant a value of about about $2,500 per customer.
When presented with those numbers, JMP Securities director of financial technology research Devin Ryan acknowledged that while these Robinhood clients are currently worth less based on account balances for the average client, any buyer would be investing in the potential for these young clients to earn more and in turn deposit more on the platform as they get older.
The big question will be whether Robinhood can build out more services to retain those clients as their investing needs become more complex. Ryan also points out that the numbers at Schwab are inflated by custodial accounts for RIAs that use the platform, the type of more advanced business Robinhood could aspire to add in the future.