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Funds News

UPDATE 4-Lazard rides restructuring unit to Q3 profit

* Q3 EPS 41 cents; Wall Street view 37 cents

* Cites strong restructuring and asset management results

* Shares down 1 pct in midday trading (Updates share activity, adds analyst comment)

NEW YORK, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Investment bank Lazard Ltd LAZ.N, facing questions about succession after the death of CEO Bruce Wasserstein, reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit Wednesday on strong restructuring revenue from a wave of bankruptcies.

The restructuring unit produced record quarterly revenue of $119.1 million, up from $23.9 million a year ago, and is likely to continue its strong performance, interim CEO Steven Golub said.

“As we look at restructuring going forward, we believe defaults will remain at high levels and will be at a more global level,” Golub said in a phone interview. “We expect our restructuring business will continue to be very active.”

Lazard posted net income of $37.4 million, or 41 cents a share, for the third quarter, compared with a year-earlier net loss of $77 million, or $1.17 per share.

Analysts on average had forecast earnings of 37 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Lazard shares were down 1 percent in midday trading, compared with a 1.8 percent fall in the securities broker dealer index .XBD.

Lazard also posted improved results in asset management, where revenue rose 20 percent to $157.3 million.

Doug Sipkin, an analyst with Pali Capital, said Lazard shares may be down due to investor concerns about global equity markets, which drive Lazard’s asset management business.

“Investors may be looking forward rather than looking back,” he said.

Michael Hecht an analyst with JMP Securities, cautioned that mergers and acquisitions, a key part of Lazard’s business, continue to be weak. M&A revenue totaled $124.7 million in the third quarter, down 46 percent from a year ago.

“Don’t lose sight that it is still a tough environment out there,” Hecht said.

NO COMMENT ON SUCCESSION

Golub declined to comment on who would succeed Wasserstein, who died Oct. 14 after being hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat. He said Wasserstein, who joined Lazard in 2002, had “transformed the firm.”

Lazard’s board, which selected Golub as interim CEO, held a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. It has not yet decided whether Golub will be made CEO on a permanent basis, and the company declined to offer any insight.

The company’s shares have traded lower since Wasserstein’s death. The star investment banker was credited with brokering more than 1,000 transactions worth more than $250 billion, including Time’s merger with Warner Brothers and the Dean Witter, Discover & Co combination with Morgan Stanley.

Lazard shares were down 1 percent at $38.30 on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares have doubled in price since hitting a low of $19.21 last November. (Reporting by Steve Eder; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and John Wallace)

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