Morgan Stanley profit hit by charges, revenue beats estimates

Reuters | January 16, 2024

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By Manya Saini and Tatiana Bautzer

(Reuters) -Morgan Stanley’s shares slid more than 4% after its fourth-quarter profit took a hit from $535 million in charges, though its revenue beat expectations as investment banking rebounded.

Investors were disappointed by the bank’s lower-than-expected guidance for wealth management margins on Tuesday, which weighed on shares, said Barclays analyst Jason Goldberg.

Despite the stock decline, “we believe MS is well positioned to benefit from a rebound in investment banking fees while it continues to grow client assets,” Goldberg added.

Wealth management margins are currently in the mid-20% range and will rise to 30% in the medium term, the bank’s new CEO Ted Pick told investors on his first earnings conference call after taking the helm this month.

Morgan Stanley’s net income fell to $1.5 billion, or 85 cents per diluted share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, compared with $2.2 billion, or $1.26 per diluted share, a year earlier.

“We remain constructive on the year ahead,” Pick said. He cited growing pipelines for M&A deals and share offerings and improving boardroom confidence. Pick, however, warned of two major downside risks, the intensification of geopolitical conflicts and the state of the U.S. economy.

Morgan Stanley’s fourth quarter results were eroded by $535 million in charges. It set aside $286 million to refill a government deposit insurance fund that was drained by the collapse of two regional lenders last year.

It also took $249 million in legal charges to settle a government probe. Last week, Morgan Stanley agreed to pay that amount to end years-long investigations into its handling of large stock trades for customers.

The bank also took $405 million in mark-to-market losses on corporate loans, including financing for Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, Chief Financial Officer Sharon Yeshaya said in an interview with Reuters.

Investment banking revenue rose 5% in the fourth quarter from a year ago, outperforming peers. Fixed income underwriting revenue jumped 25% on higher investment grade issuance.

Equity and fixed income revenue were largely flat. That compares with rival Goldman Sachs, where profit beat estimates as stock traders capitalized on a market recovery. Other Wall Street giants reported lower profits on Friday, clouded by special charges and job cuts.

Morgan Stanley’s overall revenue was slightly higher than analysts’ expectations, according to LSEG data. But its adjusted profit came in at 99 cents per share – including the charge from government’s special assessment – compared with expectations of $1.01 per share, according to LSEG. The analyst estimate excludes the legal charge from the block trading probe.


Morgan Stanley’s former CEO James Gorman, who became executive chairman at the start of the year, turned the bank into a wealth management powerhouse that was less dependent on volatile revenue from trading and investment banking.

In his first strategic update as CEO, Pick reiterated the target set by his predecessor of reaching $10 trillion in assets under management. Revenue in wealth management was flat at $6.65 billion.

Pick, who spent much of his career running trading and banking, said he had a familial affinity with the wealth business.

It’s “actually in my blood,” Pick said. “My dad and my father-in-law were both brokers once upon a time, and I grew up studying that business.”

When asked how his management style will differ from his predecessor’s, Pick praised Gorman and cited the collective efforts of the bank’s long-tenured management.

“The tone is one of determination,” he said. “The calling card here is durability, is consistency.”

(Reporting by Manya Saini in Bengaluru and Tatiana Bautzer in New York; Editing by Lananh Nguyen, Arun Koyyur, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Nick Zieminski)


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