If that upturn does not materialize, the boutiques are vulnerable to a pullback. Greenhill trades at 35.5 times JMP's estimate of what it will earn over the next 12 months, Evercore at 27.7 times and Lazard at 20.8 times. These multiples are significantly higher than their historical averages, Hecht notes. Though he believes all three are strong companies, he favors Lazard because of its relatively lower multiple.
Rochdale Securities analyst Richard Bove recently initiated coverage on Lazard with a "Buy" rating. Bove writes that both restructuring and M&A "require that funds flow freely in the capital markets and that confidence is high in the economy. This has not been the case for the past 12 months but it may be the case in the next 12 months."
The most serious problem I could imagine for boutiques would be if boardrooms woke up to the fact, persuasively argued by David Weidner of The Wall Street Journal, that making acquisitions is usually a bad idea.
But seriously -- boardrooms waking up? Hard to see that happening any time soon.-- Written by Dan Freed in New York.