Legg Mason reports $51.4 million profit for third quarter of fiscal 2017

Legg Mason reports $51.4 million profit for third quarter of fiscal 2017

Legg Mason Inc. reported late Wednesday that it earned $51.4 million in its third fiscal quarter, up from a loss of $138.6 million in the same October-to-December period a year ago.

The Baltimore-based money management firm reported earnings per share of 50 cents, compared to a loss of $1.31 per share for the three-month period in its 2016 fiscal year. Analysts polled by Zacks Investment Research had projected per-share earnings of 64 cents.

In after hours trading, Legg stock gave up much of what it gained in regular trading Wednesday when it was up 5.7 percent at $33.39 a share.

"In what was obviously a challenging period, we were pleased overall with our third quarter results," said Chairman and CEO Joseph A. Sullivan in a conference call with investors on Wednesday.

The quarter's results include a non-cash impairment charge of $35 million related to intangible assets at two of its affiliates: Sydney, Australia-based RARE Infrastructure and the Permal trade-name.

In May, Legg merged Permal, a hedge fund platform, and EnTrust Capital to create EnTrustPermal. The financial results also include $3 million in acquisition and transition charges related to that deal.

Legg reported revenue of $715.2 million, up 8 percent from $659.6 million in the year-ago quarter.

Operating expenses declined 33 percent, to $604.1 million, from $900.2 million the same quarter in fiscal 2016, when Legg took a large impairment charge related to intangible assets.

Legg had $710.4 billion in assets under management as of Dec. 31, down 3 percent from $732.9 billion three months earlier.

Legg reported a total outflows of $10.9 billion in the quarter, including the withdrawal by investors of $3.7 billion from Legg's equity funds, continuing a trend away from actively managed fund toward less risky, passive investments.

At the same time, Sullivan said he is confident about the firm's strategy for the year ahead.

"Our outlook reflects the fact that as we look at the investment landscape today, we see opportunity for active management to deliver greater value for investors," Sullivan said.

The company's strategy moving forward will in part be shaped by two new additions to its board of directors from Legg's largest investor, Singapore-based Shanda Group. Tianqiao Chen, Shanda's CEO, and Robert Chiu, the company's president, joined the board effective Feb. 1 as part of an agreement announced in December for Shanda to increase its investment in the firm.

"We're obviously very excited about Shanda," Sullivan said.

Shanda is expected to help Legg expand in key Asian markets, especially China. A well-known entrepreneur in Asia who made his fortune as a pioneer in China's online gambling industry, Chen also is expected to provide valuable insight as Legg looks to strengthen its technology platform.

sarah.gantz@baltsun.com

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