Morgan Stanley reported a net loss of $177 million in its first quarter earnings, released today. But unlike many of its peers, the firm didn’t appear to use any accounting tricks to massage the numbers.
The net loss in the quarter is equal to $0.57 per share, far worse than the $0.08 consensus expectation of analysts. Driving the losses were steep revenue declines in the firm’s sales and trading businesses as well as exposure to deteriorating commercial real estate. And some pesky bonds: “Morgan Stanley would have been profitable this quarter if not for the dramatic improvement in our credit spreads — which is a significant positive development, but had a near-term negative impact on our revenues,” said Chairman and CEO John Mack.
Including the payment of preferred dividends, the net loss to common shareholders was $578 million. The firm announced it was slashing its dividend to $0.05 from $0.27, a move the firm says will save it $1 billion annually.
Global Wealth Management posted $119 million in pre-tax income in the quarter, compared to $949 million in the first quarter of 2008—a number inflated by $708 million in pre-tax income related to the sale of the firm’s Spanish wealth management business. Net revenues were $1.3 billion, down 20 percent from the year ago quarter, excluding the sale of the Spanish division. Total client assets are $525 billion down 26 percent or $181 billion, from the same period last year.
In contrast to peers Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney—which Morgan hopes to close its joint venture deal with by Q3—the firm’s 8,148 financial advisors continue to fair quite a bit better in client asset retention. Morgan Stanley gained $3 billion in net new assets in the quarter, bringing its total net new asset haul to more than $37 billion since Q1 2008. In contrast, Smith Barney has experienced $66 billion in net client outflows since Q1 2008, while Merrill Lynch has had more than $40 billion in net client asset outflows since the year ago quarter.
The quarterly loss is the firm’s second consecutive quarterly loss after it posted a $2.3 billion loss in Q4 2008.