Greenhill & Co., Inc ( GHL)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 19, 2011 04:30 pm ET


Richard Lieb - CFO

Scott Bok - CEO


Howard Chen - Credit Suisse

Devin Ryan - Sandler O'Neill

Douglas Sipkin - Ticonderoga Securities

Lauren Smith - KBW



Good day, and welcome to the Greenhill & Co. LLC third quarter earnings conference call and webcast. All participants will be in a listen-only mode. (Operator Instructions) Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Richard Lieb, Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Lieb, the floor is yours, sir.

Richard Lieb

(inaudible) quarter 2011 financial results conference call. I'm Richard Lieb, Greenhill's Chief Financial Officer and joining me on the call today is Scott Bok, our Chief Executive Officer.

Today's call may include forward-looking statements. These statements are based on our current expectations regarding future events that by their nature are outside of the firm's control and are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and assumptions. The firm's actual results and financial condition may differ, possibly materially from what is indicated in these forward-looking statements. For a discussion of some of the risks and factors that could affect the firm's future results, please see our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, and current reports on Form 8-K.

Neither we nor any other person assumes responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of any of these forward-looking statements. You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. We are under no duty to update any of these forward-looking statements after the date on which they are made.

I would now like to turn the call over to Scott Bok.

Scott Bok

Thank you, Richard. We are quite pleased with the results we announced today. Our Advisory revenue for the quarter was $83.2 million, which is almost identical to our solid second quarter result despite what were some extremely difficult market conditions during the quarter.

Our last two quarters combined our best back-to-back Advisory revenue quarters since 2007 when M&A activity was hitting an all time high. The third quarter Advisory figure is down 14% from the prior year’s third quarter but it’s worth noting that last year’s third quarter was particularly strong, almost double our average of the other three quarters last year.

For the year-to-date, our Advisory revenue is up 11% and when you consider last year’s soft fourth quarter, and what I'm about to say about the outlook for the current quarter and beyond, it’s safe to say that we feel very good about where the full year Advisory revenue growth figure will come out, both, on absolute terms and relative to our analysts who are expecting our large event competitors to end up.

Our total revenue figure for the quarter was heavily impacted by the $23.6 million decline in the value of our stake in Iridium Communications, which is the last significant investment left from the Merchant Banking business that we announced our exit from two years ago.

Suffice it to say that Iridium’s operations have continued to perform very well but that it was one of many victims of the carnage in the financial markets in August and September.

It’s worth noting that the Iridium investment has still been a money maker for the firm since its inception but its volatility and the resulting distraction from our core business or such that we decided to adopt the plan to put the liquidation of that holding on auto-pilot and Richard will provide more detail on that in a moment. The sharp drop in the valuation of Iridium also somewhat distorted our compensation ratio for the quarter and Richard will also give more detail on that.

But stepping back and looking at the big picture, it’s important to note that two years ago we made the move to become a purely Advisory business. We’ve said then that all the principle investments that remained from our prior activities were simply being held until they could be liquidated. Of course, we want to maximize the value of the liquidation proceeds whatever they turn out to be, that liquidation is a one-time, non-recurring event that has no effect on our core Advisory business.

Since the liquidation proceeds are essentially going back to our shareholders, the only real impact of the value achieved is on how much stock we can buyback. What really determines the long-term growth and profitability of the firm is our Advisory business. So let’s turn back to that.

Our strong Advisory revenue for the quarter again demonstrated the breadth of our business. We list nine completed M&A transactions on our press release with the clients for those coming from five different countries. We’ve had a number of good transaction announcements lately as well and those, like wise, demonstrate the strength of our brand across North America, Europe and Australia.

We also noted in our release that our Private Capital Advisory group generated revenue on eight different private capital raisings in the quarter. We’ve made a significant investment in people to develop this business, particularly with the addition of a real estate focus team last year and I am pleased to say that they have now had time to build on a pipeline of projects and are having a meaningful revenue impact.

And apart from all these specifically identified revenue items, it’s worth noting that we continue to generate revenue from a wide variety of corporate, government and institutional clients in ways that are not transaction-based. Year-to-date, we’ve earned at least a $1 million from 51 different clients and that’s up 21% from the prior year. Last year we grew our $1 million dollar or greater fee paying clients 33% for the full year.

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