BlackRock (BLK)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 19, 2011 9:00 am ET


Robert Peter Connolly - Senior Managing Director and General Counsel

Laurence Douglas Fink - Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Senior Member of Operating Committee, Senior Member of Leadership Committee and Chairman of Executive Committee

Ann Marie Petach - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Managing Director


Craig Siegenthaler - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

William R. Katz - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Cynthia Mayer - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Glenn Schorr - Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Research Division



Good morning. My name is Sarah, and I'll be your conference facilitator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the BlackRock, Inc. Third Quarter 2011 Earnings Teleconference. Our hosts for today's call will be Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Laurence D. Fink; Chief Financial Officer, Ann Marie Petach; Vice Chairman, Susan L. Wagner; and General Counsel, Robert P. Connolly. [Operator Instructions] Thank you. Mr. Connolly, you may begin your conference.

Robert Peter Connolly

Good morning, everyone. Before Larry, Ann Marie and Sue make their remarks, I want to point out that during the course of this conference call, we may make a number of forward-looking statements. We call to your attention the fact that BlackRock's actual results may differ from these statements. And as you know, BlackRock has filed with the SEC reports, which lists some of the factors which may cause our results to differ materially from these statements. Finally, BlackRock assumes no duty to and does not undertake to update any forward-looking statements.

And with that, I'll turn it over to Ann Marie, our Chief Financial Officer.

Ann Marie Petach

Thanks, Bob. Good morning, everyone. We're pleased to report that really despite an adverse and volatile market in recent months, BlackRock delivered strong results in the quarter. It's a confusing environment out there. Clients, more than ever, are looking for advice and solutions in the face of uncertainty, and BlackRock's diverse mix of business leaves us well-positioned to meet their needs. BlackRock was able to provide full end products that were especially important to investors in this environment.

We experienced large index flows in both our institutional ETF products, though liquidity of these products allowed clients to react rapidly to the environment and more efficiently move into or out of asset classes. We generated inflows into multi-asset class products across each of our channels. BlackRock is uniquely suited to meet the growing demand for these products.

We also saw clients getting into income-oriented products in the face of the sustained low interest rate environment. Of course, we're not immune to the effects of negative markets on AUM, flows, revenues. And while revenue was down from the second quarter, the diversity of our product set and clients allowed us to lessen the impact of the negative flow environment, such that our flows were relatively flat in the quarter.

The nature of our cost space meant we were able to maintain strong margin as we balance beta-driven revenue effects with expense management. In combination, this resulted in cash flow generation of $1.7 billion year-to-date and allowed us to return a large amount of cash to shareholders. Larry is going to be talking a lot more about the environment, the flows we're seeing across our business and what we believe it means for our clients and for BlackRock. But first, I'm just going to focus on the results themselves.

As I said, it's a good story. And these, for me, key takeaway is that our performance in the face of really tough global headwinds illustrates the strength of BlackRock's business model: our diversified global platform, our broad mix of product and client capability. Now I'm going to be referring to the slides in the earnings supplement. You can find those on the website. And as I go through results, I'll be discussing primarily as adjusted results.

We're going to start this out on Slide 1. You can see on Slide 1, on the right-hand side, our operating results of $849 million. These were up 15% year-over-year, and that's driven both by revenue growth and margin improvement. Third quarter EPS, which you can see on the right-hand side, came in at $2.83.

Moving on to, again, the strong margin story, which you can see on Slide 2, our operating margin came in at 41 -- 40.1% in the quarter. That showed improvement of over 1.5 points compared to the third quarter 2010. More importantly, as margin can vary a bit from quarter-to-quarter, our year-to-date margin of 39.6% also showed improvement compared to full-year 2010. And in the face of the lower revenue environment, our comp revenue ratio was 34.2%, which is exactly consistent with the first and second quarters and is really well within the long-term range we've been running of about 35%. We believe this highlights our financial discipline and the variable nature of our expense base.

Just pausing for a second on the environment and looking at Slide 3, you can see that S&P declined, everyone know there's 14% in the third quarter. But when you take a look at average markets compared to average markets in the second quarter, the decline was 7%. World markets fared even worse, driven by the European uncertainties. While recent volatility on market declines are affecting AUM and investor sentiment, average markets in the third quarter were still 12% better than a year ago.

And then we'll walk through a comparison of the results of this year compared to last year, and then I'll move on to sequential results. So I'm going to move ahead to Slide 5. And on Slide 5, you can see that operating EPS was up $0.51 year-over-year, and that's the green bar on the page. The growth in operating EPS reflected the 15% or $112 million growth in operating income that I mentioned earlier. The EPS in the quarter also benefited $0.16 from our June share repurchase. Earnings per share, which you can see on the right-hand side of $2.83, included 3/12 of operating earnings in the dark blue, offset by $0.29 of non-operating expense.

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