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Peltz's Trian builds 5.1 pct stake in Lazard
June 18, 2012 / 11:27 PM / 5 years ago

Peltz's Trian builds 5.1 pct stake in Lazard

* Lazard says it welcomes Trian’s investment

* Pelz firm endorses Lazard’s strategic plan

* Lazard aims to raise dividends, profit by 2014

NEW YORK, June 18 (Reuters) - Shares of Lazard Ltd rose 5 percent on Monday after investment funds run by Nelson Peltz and Edward Garden said they had accumulated a 5.1 percent stake in the investment bank.

The investments overseen by Trian Fund Management L.P., which often wrestles with management of companies it considers undervalued or poorly managed, were welcomed by New York-based Lazard.

“Trian Partners are experienced and successful investors, and we appreciate their confidence in Lazard’s franchise and strategy,” Lazard said in a statement. A spokeswoman at the firm declined to elaborate.

In a 38-page presentation posted on a website devoted to Trian’s new investment, the firm endorsed a strategic plan Lazard unveiled on April 27.

Lazard management said by 2014 it would reduce debt, lift profit margins to 25 percent from 16 percent last year, cut compensation expense to 57 percent of revenue from 62 percent in 2011 and pay shareholders higher dividends.

Lazard specializes in merger and acquisition and restructuring advice, a business that has suffered from a drought of deals since the credit crisis of 2008. It also oversees $157 billion of assets in mutual funds and other vehicles, with a specialty in global equity funds.

Unlike larger competing banks Lazard does not have trading operations that consume a lot of capital.

Lazard, which last week added former Citigroup chairman Richard Parsons to its board, has $200 million of excess capital that it can return to shareholders through share buybacks and dividend hikes during 2013, Trian said.

Lazard stock is down 7.7 percent this year, but Trian believes it can double its stock price if the strategic plan is successfully executed.

Trian has met several times with Lazard’s management to discuss its “strategies to enhance shareholder value,” Trian said in a news release.

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