Lazard beats forecasts on M&A advice

City A.M. Reporter
Lazard posted a narrower quarterly loss and beat forecasts on an operating basis, helped by strong growth in advisory and asset management fees.

The New York-based investment bank reported a net loss of $33.5m (£22m), or 38 cents per share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $53.5m, or 77 cents per share. But excluding about $100m in non-recurring charges, the bank, whose former chief executive Bruce Wasserstein died last year, earned 46 cents a share, compared with the average forecast of 38 cents per share.

“Our first quarter results... show continued strength and momentum in both our Financial Advisory and Asset Management businesses as we enter the gradual upturn of the next cycle,” Kenneth Jacobs, who replaced Wasserstein, said in the company’s earnings announcement.

The company’s first-quarter work included Kraft Foods’ acquisition of Cadbury and the sale of its North America pizza business to Nestle, along with ING’s sale of its three US broker-dealers to Lightyear Capital.

During the period, Lazard recorded $87m in one-time personnel expenses, as part of a previously announced staffing reduction and selective recruiting effort. Lazard reported first-quarter net operating income of $77m after excluding the charges. Total revenue increased 66 per cent, to $459m from $276m a year ago.

Lazard has pushed to curb expenses while increasing revenues in an effort to return to more traditional, pre-crisis profit levels. Lazard’s compensation ratio – a key measure used by Wall Street investment banks as their largest expense -- declined to 60.3 per cent after excluding the special one-time charges, from 74.6 per cent last year.