BNY Mellon profit rises, but analysts worry about fees

Wed Oct 17, 2012 10:42am EDT

A BNY Mellon sign is seen on their headquarters in New York's financial district, January 19, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A BNY Mellon sign is seen on their headquarters in New York's financial district, January 19, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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(Reuters) - BNY Mellon Corp (BK.N) reported an 11 percent rise in third-quarter earnings on Wednesday, beating analysts' expectations, as money management and performance fees increased.

While BNY Mellon's stock rose 4.1 percent to $24.52, some analysts expressed concern about the revenue trends at the world's largest custody bank's core investment servicing business, which tracks mutual fund prices and collects and distributes dividend and interest payments for investors.

The bank reported a sharp decline in revenue from trading foreign exchange currencies and a 6 percent drop in overall investment services fees.

CLSA Ltd analyst Mike Mayo described what was happening to BNY Mellon's servicing fees as a "bloodbath."

"It just keeps getting worse and worse," Mayo told BNY Mellon executives on a conference call. "If I look at your services fees, including foreign exchange and securities lending, this is the lowest percentage of those fees to assets under custody in your history."

BNY Mellon CEO Gerald Hassell said foreign exchange revenue, hit hard by changing client behavior and lower volatility in currency markets, might not stage a complete comeback.

"Foreign exchange is going the route of the equity markets - more electronic, higher-speed and streaming prices to clients on a consistent basis, giving them greater optionality in terms of how they execute with us," Hassell said.

And overall, pricing for the plain-vanilla custodial business remains under pressure, Bernstein Research analyst Brad Hintz said in a research note. Executives at BNY Mellon and rival State Street Corp (STT.N) have acknowledged they have a hard time getting price increases from their largest clients.

Both custody banks have been fighting lawsuits from customers and U.S. authorities accusing them of overcharging on certain forex trades. While the banks deny any wrongdoing, they concede that customers have shifted some of their forex activity to cheaper alternatives such as electronic trading.

BNY Mellon, meanwhile, said investment management and performance fees were a bright spot. Those fees rose 7 percent to $779 million from year-earlier levels as the bank booked $9 billion of long-term inflows into stock and bond funds in the third quarter.

The bank's 2009 acquisition of London-based Insight Investment is paying off as leading United Kingdom-based pension funds make investments to manage their liabilities, which have increased amid ultra-low interest rates.

"That's been one of real fast growers," Chief Financial Officer Todd Gibbons told Reuters.

In contrast, BNY said investment services fees totaled $1.7 billion for the quarter, down from $1.8 billion a year earlier.

Net income was $720 million, or 61 cents a share, including a benefit of 4 cents per share from a lower-than-expected effective tax rate. That compared with $651 million, or 53 cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average expected a profit of 54 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total fee revenue was nearly flat at $2.88 billion, hurt by a 45 percent decline in the foreign exchange operation. State Street's third-quarter foreign exchange revenue dropped 44 percent to $115 million.

BNY Mellon's assets under custody and administration totaled $27.9 trillion, up 3 percent from the second quarter and 8 percent from a year earlier. The increases reflect higher market values and winning new business.

Net interest revenue - largely the difference between what the bank pays on deposits and earns on loans and investments - fell 3 percent to $754 million from a year earlier. Net interest margin was 1.2 percent on lower investment yields and the elimination of interest on European Central Bank deposits.

(Reporting by Tim McLaughlin in Boston; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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