Outlook good says Charles Stanley boss

INDEPENDENT stockbroker Charles Stanley yesterday posted a 24.4 per cent decline in full-year underlying pre-tax profit, but said it was optimistic for the next six to 12 months.<br /><br />The company said funds under management fell 18 per cent to &pound;9bn, and that revenue fell by 3.6 per cent to &pound;101.8m.<br /><br />For the full year ended 31 March, the broker posted an underlying pre-tax profit of &pound;9.3m, compared with &pound;12.4m a year ago.<br /><br />But chairman Sir David Howard was upbeat about the future. <br /><br />&ldquo;Charles Stanley has demonstrated its resilience even in the harshest conditions,&rdquo; he said. <br /><br />Howard added:&ldquo;We are well placed if these continue and well placed, equally, to move forward when the economy recovers.&rdquo;<br /><br />&ldquo;It is too early to say if this is a short-lived bounce or if the gathering momentum is the beginning of a cyclical upturn,&rdquo; he said, adding that he veered toward the latter view.<br /><br />Private client income was up nearly one per cent to &pound;84.5m, and the company raised its final dividend to 6.65p per share from 6.50p.<br /><br />In May, rival London-based broker Collins Stewart said it was cautious about the outlook as market conditions remained uncertain, while Evolution said it was trading profitably. <br /><br />Numis Securities analyst David McCann said the quality of Charles Stanley&rsquo;s recurring income and discretionary funds under management is below the average among traditional wealth management peers.<br /><br />McCann, who has a 171p price target on the stock, cut his rating to &ldquo;sell&rdquo; from &ldquo;reduce&rdquo;, saying Charles Stanley is overvalued on both a relative and absolute basis.<br /><br />Shares of Charles Stanley have gained 56 per cent in the last three months, outperforming the FTSE Small Cap Index, which has gained 41 per cent during the period. <br /><br />But yesterday its shares fell five per cent to 238p.