Computershare Acquires Yet Another U.S. Stock Transfer Agent

On March 1, 2007, Computershare announced it will buy long-time Western service provider U.S.   Stock Transfer Corporation (USST).   This modest-sized but solid and highly-regarded industry player will be missed, in a marketplace that is growing inexorably smaller through consolidation (see the Mellon and Bank of New York article accompanying this one).   As smart business people, Computershare’s management has bought agents large and small since its entry into the U.S. in 2000 — Equiserve in the largest category (plus Canada’s biggest, Montreal Trust); Harris Bank in the medium-sized category; American Securities Transfer, Fifth Third, SunTrust and now U.S. Stock Transfer in the small category.   USST’s business will be folded into the client portfolio Computershare runs from Golden, Colorado, which used to be American Securities Transfer.   This fact we view as a positive element in the announcement, because it means USST will (we hope) continue to be guided with the sense of “intimacy” that has been so attractive to its customers — reflected in the outstanding annual client satisfaction survey results USST enjoyed for so long.   But the absorption of another regional player into the shrinking number of big-agents-getting bigger takes away a degree of competition we worry about, notwithstanding Computershare’s claims that ex-USST clients will have more services to choose from now.   The fact is they could have chosen many of those services before — proxy solicitation, un-tendered shareholder search, employee plan administration, information agency…   if they’d  wanted them — without giving up USST as their transfer agent.