UPDATE 1-Legg Mason profit rises 51 pct on higher assets under management

Thu Jul 31, 2014 7:57am EDT

(Adds details on results, background, share price)

July 31 (Reuters) - Asset manager Legg Mason Inc's net income rose 51 pct in the first quarter, driven by increased assets under management and lower operating expenses.

The company's total assets under management rose 9.3 percent to $704.3 billion in the quarter ended June 30 as markets improved and long-term inflows were strong.

Net income attributable to the company rose to $72.2 million, or 61 cents per share, from $47.8 million, or 38 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analyst on average were expecting earnings of 56 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Legg Mason's total operating revenue rose 3.5 percent to $693.9 million in the quarter, while operating expenses fell 2 percent to $574.3 million.

Under Joseph Sullivan, who became CEO in February 2013, Legg Mason has sold several businesses, created new products and bought other small investment firms as it tries to move beyond a long period of net quarterly withdrawals by customers.

The company said last week that it would buy UK-based international equity specialist firm Martin Currie, continuing an effort to revamp its business.

Up to Wednesday's close of $50.47, Legg Mason's shares have risen about 16 percent this year. (Reporting by Amrutha Gayathri in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Savio D'Souza)

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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