UPDATE 1-Macquarie first-half net misses fcast; reiterates outlook
(Adds details, CEO comment)
* Macquarie H1 net A$361 mln vs A$375 mln expectation
* Macquarie reiterates forecast for better FY 13 earnings
* Staff numbers down 5 pct in six months
* Dividend of 75 cents
SYDNEY, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Macquarie Group reported a smaller-than-expected 18.4 percent rise in first-half net profit as weak markets hurt, but Australia's top investment bank reiterated on Friday its full-year profits would top the year-ago figure.
The bank, which has A$3.4 billion ($3.52 billion) in surplus capital and is eager to grow its funds management business, did not mention any potential acquisitions in its stock exchange filing. Sources have said Macquarie is among bidders for Rabobank's asset management arm, Robeco..
Macquarie, which reported its lowest full-year net profit in eight years in April, said first half net was A$361 million ($374 million), up from A$305 million a year ago but below the A$375 million expected by analysts.
It reiterated it expected year-to-March 2013 earnings would be better than the year ago result, subject to market conditions, though its advisory and securities trading businesses were still bearing the brunt of turbulent financial markets.
Macquarie, which consistently beat estimates before the global financial crisis, is renewing its focus on stable businesses such as funds management to mitigate the cyclical nature of its advisory and trading units.
With weak markets, the bank has been cutting staff to control costs. It said total employees fell 5.2 percent to 13,463 from 14,202 in March. This follows a 9 percent cut in total employees for the year to March 2012.
Investment banks globally have also suffered and cut thousands of jobs. However Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley beat earnings estimates in their latest quarters as they reaped gains from trading. [ID: nL1E8LI2WE]
"Macquarie's capital markets facing businesses, although continuing to face subdued market conditions, delivered a combined result that was up on (a year ago)," Chief Executive Nicholas Moore, who is leading Macquarie's move away from riskier products, said in a statement.
Analysts on average expect Macquarie to report a net profit of A$858.6 million for the year ending March 2013 versus A$730 million a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Their estimates have dropped steadily, from more than A$1 billion in April. Macquarie typically hands out profit warnings closer to full-year results.
The bank, which has flagged another full-year loss for its securities trading business, said the business lost A$64 million compared with a loss of A$194 million in 2011/12.
Shares in Macquarie, which is buying back A$500 million worth of shares to lift its record low return on equity, have risen 25 percent so far this year compared to a 11 percent rise for the broader market.
It said it has bought back A$251 million worth of shares under the buyback program ($1 = 0.9649 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Narayanan Somasundaram; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and John Mair)