Morgan Stanley posts $958 million profit as wealth management grows

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 18, 2013 12:23 hrs

Morgan Stanley reported a stronger-than-expected first-quarter profit of $958 million, compared with a year-earlier loss of $119 million, as its wealth management business grew.

The sixth-largest U.S. bank by assets said on Thursday it earned 49 cents per share on a consolidated basis in the first three months of the year, compared with a loss of 6 cents per share a year earlier.

Excluding a charge related to debt value adjustment (DVA), or changes in the value of the company's debt, Morgan Stanley earned $1.2 billion, or 61 cents per share.

On the same basis, analysts had expected earnings of 57 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of the bank, which has reported a profit excluding items in every quarter since the first quarter of 2012, were down 1 percent at $21.25 before the bell.

Excluding items, total revenue fell 4.8 percent to $8.48 billion, beating the average analyst forecast of $8.35 billion.

Revenue in the wealth management group, which had been expected to drive earnings, rose 5.4 percent to $3.47 billion, making up about 41 percent of total revenue.

The unit's profit margin was unchanged from the fourth quarter at 17 percent, compared with 11 percent a year earlier.

Chief Executive James Gorman has staked the future of the company on the wealth management business, arguing that it offers more stable returns that will help offset volatility in the bank's trading and investment banking businesses.

He had promised to deliver a "midteens" pre-tax margin in the business by June -- after initially aiming for 20 percent -- but executives cautioned in January that the margin might drop from a particularly strong fourth quarter.

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