AllianceBernstein disappoints again
(Reuters) - Money manager AllianceBernstein LP (AB.N) turned in another disappointing financial report on Friday, with fourth-quarter profit and revenue falling short of Wall Street expectations as clients continued to pull money out of its stock funds.
Shares of the New York-based company, which is controlled by French insurer AXA (AXAF.PA), were down 6 percent in morning trading.
Since becoming chairman and chief executive in December 2008, Peter Kraus, a former Goldman Sachs partner, has struggled to revive a company that was reeling when he arrived. AllianceBernstein's assets under management and stock price are down 12 percent and 14 percent, respectively, during his tenure.
"In a year of extremely volatile markets and risk aversion on the part of investors, it was a difficult year for active managers to outperform," Kraus told analysts and investors on a conference call on Friday. "Performance in our largest equity services disappointed and we ended up with greater net outflows in 2011 than in 2010."
The company also took a noncash charge of $587 million related to unrecognized deferred incentive compensation.
Earnings excluding one-time items dropped to $37 million from $139 million a year earlier. That gave the company earnings per unit of 7 cents. Analysts on average had expected 19 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net revenue fell 20 percent to $625 million. Analysts had expected $650 million.
Sandler O'Neill analyst Michael Kim said the stock seemed to be reacting to the earnings miss driven by the revenue shortfall. Though he had forecast earnings of just four cents per share and said AllianceBernstein's flow trends were a touch better than he expected, Kim said the firm still has work to do to bring investors back to its stock funds.
"They're still dealing with performance issues on the large-cap core equities franchise, and that is likely to remain a real drag on overall growth," Kim said in an interview.
The company reported $406 billion in assets under management at the end of 2011, compared with $478 billion at the end of 2010. Net outflows in the fourth quarter were $13.2 billion.
Assets under management rose 1 percent from the end of the third quarter, and showed a 4 percent improvement in January from the end of 2011.
Shares of AllianceBernstein were down six percent to $15.53 in morning trading.
The company has been hurt somewhat by moves made by AXA.
During 2011, AXA sold its Canadian and Australian businesses. AllianceBernstein managed about $16 billion for them and expects to lose most of these assets over time.
In the fourth quarter, it had outflows associated with those dispositions of nearly $4 billion, representing about $5 million in revenue.
The company said it expects to see another $6 billion in outflows related to the AXA asset sales in the first half of 2012.
(Reporting by Tim McLaughlin in New York and Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, John Wallace and Phil Berlowitz)
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