UPDATE 1-Brazil's BM&FBovespa sees expenses at low end of 2014 target
(Recasts to add comments, details on second-quarter earnings, share performance)
By Aluísio Alves and Guillermo Parra-Bernal
SAO PAULO Aug 8 (Reuters) - BM&FBovespa SA said on Friday expenses in 2014 would come in at the low end of its target, a sign that Brazil's sole listed exchange will continue to rely on cost controls to counter flagging capital markets activity.
Expenses will "stay closer to the bottom of our guidance" of 595 million reais to 615 million reais ($258 million to $267 million) this year, Chief Financial Officer Daniel Sonder said at an event on Friday.
BM&FBovespa's ability to control its sales, general and administrative costs helped fuel an unexpectedly better second-quarter profit and drive shares higher on Friday.
The São Paulo-based company reported on Thursday it earned 250.1 million reais ($109 million) in the quarter, compared with an average forecast of 249 million reais in a Reuters poll of seven analysts. While revenue plunged 22.5 percent on an annual basis, expenses rose a meager 0.8 percent, and financial income jumped 38 percent in the period.
While weak volumes were offset by a rising stock market, the expense controls highlight how the company, led by Chief Executive Officer Edemir Pinto, is committed to delivering robust margins, said Victor Schabbel, an analyst with Credit Suisse Securities.
"While volatility and market appreciation helped, more came from management's efforts. Despite not willing to raise the bar higher, expectations are now for expenses to be closer or even lower than guidance," said Schabbel, who on Friday raised his target price on BM&FBovespa shares to 14 reais from 13.50 reais.
The stock rose 0.3 percent to 12.19 reais on Friday, extending its year-to-date gain to 12 percent.
While seasonal changes in capital expenditure and the need to execute some projects more rapidly may drive expenses up in the second half, "the outlook is clearly favorable," Schabbel noted.
Almost four years of weak economic expansion and rising government meddling in the economy have stifled investor confidence in Brazil, cutting equity market inflows and triggering price volatility. Optimism that the October presidential election will bring about a more business-friendly policy has been bolstering market activity in recent weeks.
To help offset the impact of the weak business outlook on the company's stock, BM&FBovespa plans to keep paying out dividends at a ratio of 80 percent of earnings, and continue a share buyback program that already has led to the repurchase of the equivalent of 3.5 percent of its outstanding shares.
($1 = 2.3029 Brazilian reais) (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Paul Simao)