Greenhill's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Greenhill & Co., Inc. (GHL)

Q1 2012 Results Earnings Call

April 18, 2012 4:30 PM ET


Richard Lieb – Chief Financial Officer

Scott Bok – Chief Executive Officer


Devin Ryan – Sandler O'Neill

Joel Jeffrey – KBW

Howard Chen – Credit Suisse

Douglas Sipkin – Susquehanna



Good day. And welcome to the Greenhill First Quarter 2012 Earnings Call and Webcast. All participants will be in listen-only mode. (Operator Instructions)

Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Richard J. Lieb, Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Lieb, please go ahead.

Richard Lieb

Thank you. Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us today for Greenhill's first quarter of 2012 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. Focusing on our first quarter results we are very pleased with our strong performance in what continues to be a challenging transaction environment. Our advisory revenue for the quarter was up 51% compared to 2011. It is fair to note that the first quarter of 2011 was our lowest revenue quarter for that year and that's helped year-over-year comparisons, but nonetheless we see this as a very solid performance in a very difficult environment.

Similar to advisory revenue, our total revenue was also up meaningfully benefiting from positive movements in the value of our remaining principal investments in addition to our strong advisory revenue results. For the first quarter our pre-tax profit margin was 30% and we had earnings per share of $0.53.

As we've said previously our results are best viewed over longer periods of time and when taken together, the last four quarters' advisory revenue of $328 million is our strongest trailing 12-month performance since the first quarter of 2008, which reflects the growing strength of our global franchise.

You'll recall that we have consistently talked about having four main objectives for the firm. One to increase our market share of the global pool of advisory fees, two, to consistently achieve the highest profit margin among our closest peers, three, to maintain the strong dividend policy, and four, to maintain a flat or even declining share count. I will focus on the first of those and then turn it back Richard for the others.

In terms of increasing our market share, our first quarter 51% increase in advisory revenue far outpaced the market's statistics for global M&A activity as well as the first quarter results announced today by the big bank.

Globally, M&A completed volume for Q1 was down 42% versus the prior year and M&A announced volume was down 32% in 3 of our 9 Global large bank competitors have reported first quarter result so far and their aggregate advisory revenue was down versus last year.

The trend of our growing advisory revenue faster than the 9 big banks, which are our primary competition has been in place for some time. Coming into 2012, we had grown our advisory revenue 39% over the preceding 33 years. While the aggregate advisory revenue of the big banks group actually fell 17%. We are pleased that this trend towards significantly increased market share remain very much in place in the first quarter.

In terms of the diversity of our revenue base, we focus on breadth of industry coverage, geographic diversity and offering many types of advice outside of traditional M&A advisory including financing and restructuring advisory and capital advisory or fund placement. It's the breadth of our revenue sources that it's allowed us to outperform expectations each of the past four quarters.

In the first quarter, we again earned almost half our revenue outside North America. Australia made a smaller contribution than in recent quarters, although the strength of our franchise there is highlighted by our firm recently receiving the award of Australia Independent Bank of the year from ACQ Finance Magazine. But Europe showed significant improvement, despite what are still very difficult market conditions there.

By industry, we also showed good breadth. As listed in our press release, we completed 10 transactions in the first quarter across the range of industries and this industry breadth is similar to the range of industries that are active in our pipeline of ongoing advisory assignments.

Lastly, in addition to solid M&A advisory revenue, we had increased contribution from financing and restructuring advisory during the quarter and a moderate contribution from capital advisory, which we expect will continue to grow as a contributor over the course of the year or beyond. While it is too early in the year to predict how these trends will play out over the course of 2012, based on what we're seeing today, we expect the diversity of our revenue to continue across geographies, industries and types of advice.

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