TORONTO TMX Group Ltd (X.TO), operator of the Toronto Stock Exchange, reported better-than-expected profit for the first full quarter since a group of Canadian financial institutions took control, even as sluggish trading and listing activity limited growth.
Shares rose as much as 4.2 percent to C$57.82, the highest level in the exchange operator's 10 years as a publicly traded company.
The takeover by the Maple consortium of Canadian banks, insurers and pension funds followed a failed offer from the London Stock Exchange Group Plc (LSE.L) for Canada's flagship market operator.
TMX's fourth-quarter profit came in at C$32.8 million, or 61 Canadian cents a share, for the three months ended December 31, the company said. Excluding one-time items related to the acquisition, TMX earned 95 Canadian cents a share.
Analysts had on average expected the company to earn 73 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
"Despite challenging industry conditions, the company has been able to produce solid earnings and solid cash flow," CIBC World Markets analyst Paul Holden said.
Fees for new listings dipped sharply on the junior TSX Venture Exchange, though the main Toronto Stock Exchange made up some of that ground with major initial public offerings for department store operator Hudson's Bay Co (HBC.TO) and miner Ivanplats Ltd IVP.TO.
FOCUS ON INTEGRATION, NOT M&A
TMX management, which had previously talked about the possibility of foreign acquisitions, downplayed that likelihood on a call with analysts after the earnings release.
A wave of consolidation is sweeping through the global exchange sector, with IntercontinentalExchange Inc (ICE.N) in the process of buying NYSE Euronext NYX.N for $8.2 billion.
"It's prudent, given that we're still in the early innings of the integrations with CDS and Alpha, that management focuses on integration," CIBC's Holden said.
The Maple Group, comprising 13 major financial institutions, was formed as an all-Canadian alternative to a takeover deal between TMX and the London Stock Exchange.
As part of its sweeping plan, Maple also acquired Alpha Trading, a smaller TMX rival, as well as Canadian Depository for Securities Ltd, a trading clearinghouse, and folded them into the enlarged company.
Along with the Toronto Stock Exchange, TMX operates the TSX Venture Exchange for small-capitalization stocks, the Montreal Exchange for derivatives, and other options and energy markets.
Maple Group, which ultimately became the technical reporting entity once the deal closed, reported a loss of C$10.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.
TMX Group Inc, predecessor of the new entity, had C$81.1 million in operating income in the year-ago period, versus the C$75.8 million reported by TMX Group Ltd in the latest quarter.
TMX Group said year-earlier comparisons were not meaningful because of the reorganization of the group after Maple's acquisition.
NEW ASSETS BOOST REVENUE
Revenue rose 12 percent to C$181.1 million, with Alpha and CDS contributing C$27.1 million, even as sales slipped in a range of markets, including energy, derivatives and junior equities.
The new units helped boost revenue from cash market trading and clearing activities.
TMX's chief executive, Tom Kloet, said economic uncertainty hurt the company's results and also held back its peers during the quarter but that he expected TMX to grow as conditions improve.
"The market has had a slowdown this year and our numbers reflect that, but I remain very bullish on this as a business," Kloet said on the earnings call.
TMX said operating expenses jumped because of the cost of running the new units and paying the additional staff. The combined group employs 1,310 people, compared with 906 who worked for the smaller TMX a year ago.
Macquarie Capital analyst Ed Ditmire, who has an "underperform" rating on the stock, said the company had edged past expectations by limiting its costs.
National Bank Financial analyst Shubha Khan also praised TMX's ability to keep costs contained, pointing to lower costs for incentive pay and reduced technology spending.
The company said it would keep its quarterly dividend unchanged at 40 Canadian cents a share.
TMX shares were up 2 percent at C$56.56 at midday on Wednesday, off the earlier high at C$57.82.
(The story corrects second paragraph to show TMX has 10-year history as public company; fixes name of entity prior to Maple acquisition in 14th paragraph)
(Additional reporting by Shounak Dasgupta in Bangalore; editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Matthew Lewis)