Ameriprise's flat profits exceed forecasts

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2012 - 9:51 PM

The advisory firm raised its dividend thanks to its strong cash position.

Ameriprise Financial Inc. posted a lackluster third quarter Wednesday but still beat Wall Street's lowered earnings expectations by a good margin.

Sales and profits at the Minneapolis-based company were flat from a year ago, with operating earnings of $289 million, or $1.32 per share, and operating net revenue of $2.5 billion. The results topped the consensus Wall Street earnings estimate of $1.19 in earnings per share, according to a Thomson Reuters poll of analysts, but missed the consensus sales forecast of $2.65 billion.

Results were weighed down by the company's annual third-quarter accounting insurance accounting adjustment, which this year totaled $48 million, or 22 cents per share, up significantly from the adjustment last year.

It also recognized investment losses of $62 million as it changes Ameriprise Bank from a federal savings bank to a nondepository trust, a process it expects to complete by the end of the year. The company said it will report gains from the process next quarter.

Ameriprise released earnings after markets closed Wednesday. Shares, which closed at $57.07 Wednesday, were up a bit in after-hours trading.

In a statement, CEO Jim Cracchiolo said the quarter's results were led by the company's advisory and asset management businesses.

"While equity markets improved in the quarter, low interest rates continue to create headwinds," he said.

Market appreciation helped drive assets under management and administration up 13 percent from a year ago to $678 billion.

The company remains in a strong cash position, with excess capital of $2 billion. It said it's raising its quarterly dividend by 29 percent to 45 cents per common share payable Nov. 16. It also authorized a new $2 billion share repurchase program through 2014.

Results were mixed across its four business lines. Its key advice and wealth management line saw operating pretax income grow by 3 percent from last year. Another top priority, its asset management business, which includes Columbia Management and Threadneedle, saw operating pretax income grow by 30 percent in part on strong retail inflows at Threadneedle, its U.K.-based asset management unit.

Still, Ameriprise has yet to staunch the outflows from Columbia Management, a business it bought from Bank of America in 2010, which posted a total asset management outflow of $3.48 billion. The company attributed the third-quarter Columbia outflows to ongoing outflows in certain equity portfolios managed by a subadviser, and to outflows related to the retirement of a fund manager earlier in the year.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683

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