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Franklin Resources willing to 'pay up' for larger deal, if necessary, CEO says

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Franklin Resources willing to 'pay up' for larger deal, if necessary, CEO says

Franklin Resources Inc. executives plan to continue pursuing bolt-on acquisitions, but they are open to "transformational" deals if the right one emerges, management said.

The asset manager, which operates as Franklin Templeton Investments, has held a steady deal profile over the last several years, including two acquisitions that closed in the first half of 2018.

But the money management space has been under pressure with investors' flows continuing to centralize over the last several years. As a result, Franklin executives said they may be open to eventually striking a larger deal.

"If it's an area that we think we need to be in, and we've got an opportunity to bring in a quality organization, we're going to pay up for that," Franklin Resources Chairman and CEO Gregory Johnson said July 27 during an earnings conference call.

Franklin, with its approximate $3 billion in excess capital, could be interested in pursuing a deal in the exchange-traded fund or private equity markets if the right opportunity arises.

The company, which operates a relatively new ETF business, would be open to expanding it through a large "transformative" ETF-focused acquisition, but CFO Kenneth Lewis said "there's not any out there."

Franklin has had a private equity business geared toward the U.S. for a number of years. But the company has started to work to scale that business out, especially with the increasing presence of private capital in today's markets, Johnson said. Franklin currently has a $50 million fund with "significant outside investors," he said.

Franklin would prefer to build out the business organically, but Johnson said the company would entertain a larger deal "if the right situation came up."

"They're harder to do," Johnson said. "Of course, we are open to that. But I think combining with a company of this size — [it] is very challenging to maintain who we are as an organization."