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E*Trade heading downtown to the Big Board

The online financial company says it plans to move its listing to the New York Stock Exchange from the Nasdaq beginning next month.

2 min read
Hoping to shroud itself with a perception of prestige, E*Trade said Tuesday it plans to move its listing to the New York Stock Exchange from the Nasdaq.

The Menlo Park, Calif., online financial company will be listed on the Big Board under the ticker symbol "ET" beginning next month.

The NYSE, with its stringent listings requirements, is not home to many Internet companies. Online giant America Online was a rare Internet NYSE listing.

A move to the Big Board allows E*Trade to try to separate itself from the crowded online electronic trading field in which most competitors are either listed on the Nasdaq or are still privately held. The company is hoping the move will increase its visibility and put it on par with blue-chip investment companies like Merrill Lynch and Charles Schwab.

E*Trade stock popped about 6 percent higher Tuesday, closing at $13.06, but not everyone was won over by the move.

"They are going from a four-letter ticker to a two-letter ticker--it is more symbolic than anything," said Eli Neusner, an analyst with MetaMarkets.com. "The move from the Nasdaq to the NYSE does in a way help differentiate it from the online herd, but I don't think it puts them on the same league as the Merrills and the Goldmans."

E*Trade was listed on the Nasdaq when it first went public in August 1996. Like other online brokers, E*Trade stock has drifted lower as the economy has slowed and fewer bulls are rushing to trade stocks. Earlier this month, rival Ameritrade announced layoffs and even prestigious button-down Morgan Online, a private banking site for J.P. Morgan Chase, cut back its online unit.

"The NYSE is definitely a symbol and institution that investors see as more venerable, with greater stability behind it," Neusner said. "But some of the world's leading companies are also listed on the Nasdaq."

The NYSE has made an aggressive push to recruit these stars of the Nasdaq, which continue to be big companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Intel and Sun Microsystems. The Nasdaq also lists most of the blue-chip Internet companies like Yahoo, Amazon and eBay.

Since its initial public offering in 1996, E*Trade has grown customer accounts to more than 3.3 million, reporting $66 billion in assets and $1.4 billion in revenue, and has launched branded Web sites in 10 countries outside the United States.

The company also said it will change the date of its fiscal-year end from Sept. 30 to Dec. 31, which it said will better reflect its overall business strategy.