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Bear Stearns net tumbles 61 percent

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bear Stearns Cos Inc BSC.N said on Thursday quarterly profit plunged 61 percent to its lowest level in five years on bad bets on subprime mortgages and disrupted fixed-income trading.

The Bear Stearns name is seen outside their headquarters in New York July 18, 2007. Bear Stearns Cos Inc said on Thursday quarterly profit plunged 61 percent to its lowest level in five years on bad bets on subprime mortgages and disrupted fixed-income trading. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The U.S. investment bank's profit badly missed the estimates of analysts after the collapse of two hedge funds triggered about $200 million in losses and expenses. Industry giant Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N, meanwhile, thrived where Bear Stearns stumbled, posting a 79 percent gain in profit.

Shares of Bear Stearns, down 29 percent this year, were off less than 1 percent in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange because most investors had expected a poor earnings report, said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey.

“It’s been factored in pretty aggressively at least on a short-term basis,” Kenny said.

Seen as a leader in packaging home loans into mortgage-backed bonds, Bear Stearns’ bread-and-butter business, fixed-income, saw its revenue plunge 88 percent to $118 million. Revenue from trades with Bear Stearns’ money fell nearly $800 million in the quarter.

“They were definitely hurt by the mortgage problems and credit markets,” said Meg McMullen, president of Boston’s New England Research & Management. “And they are the least diversified among the major investment banks.”

Net income was $171.3 million, or $1.16 a share, in the third quarter ended August 31, down from $438 million, or $3.02 a share, in the year-earlier period.

Analysts on average looked for Bear Stearns to earn $1.78 a share, according to Reuters Estimates

Total net revenue fell 38 percent to $1.3 billion.

“Bear Stearns is a big fixed income shop, and when things got frothy in those markets they weren’t ready for things to turn in the other direction,” said Adam Compton, director of global financials research at RCM Global Investors in San Francisco, which has about $150 billion of assets.

The hedge fund collapse flowed through the results of Bear’s wealth management division, which reported $226.5 million in pre-tax losses after posting an $18 million profit in the year-ago period.

Bright spots for Bear were a 53 percent gain in equities trading revenue and a 30 percent gain in global clearing services revenue, which includes fees from hedge fund clients.

Investment banking revenue fell 9 percent amid a global credit squeeze that slowed dealmaking and leveraged buyouts.

Bear Stearns shares are down 29 percent this year, underperforming the 2.5 percent decline on the Amex Securities Broker Dealer Index .xbd

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