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NetBank for Sale?

After a string of divestitures and the shuttering of money-losing operations, NetBank is returning to its core retail banking roots (see coverage here and here).

Whether the company remains an independent entity is up to its management and shareholders, but at least one analyst is speculating about a 2007 sale.

While not in a position to judge the value of the entire enterprise, I do know the brand itself has considerable value. The URL alone is worth millions. It could make a nice entry point into the U.S. market for an international bank looking to capitalize on the direct banking model, e.g., ING Direct.

The bank was launched in 1996 as Atlanta Internet Bank and went public in mid-1997. It was renamed NetBank in 1998 after securing the rights to the domain name for a reported $150,000.

NetBank was the second Internet-only U.S. financial institution, the first to go public, and the first to become relatively well known.