Federated [profile] reported solid earnings growth for the fourth quarter, riding on long-standing brand loyalty for its money funds and a mild increase in interest in risk among investors.
For the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2012, it reported earnings per share of 44 cents, up 8 cents, or 22 percent, compared to the same period the previous year. Net income for the quarter was $49.6 million, up 34 percent year-over-year, while total revenue for the quarter was $244.8 million, up 13 percent from the same period a year before. The firm's total managed assets were up 3 percent, to $379.8 billion as of Dec. 31, 2012.
POINT #1: Federated is Weathering the Money Fund Brouhaha Nicely POINT #2: Federated is Seeing Some Equity Momentum -- But No "U-Turns" POINT #3: Federated is Building Up its Global Operations Aggressively
Now to elaborate on these points:
POINT #1: Federated is Weathering the Money Fund Brouhaha Nicely
During the conference call, chief executive John Christopher Donahue noted that the firm's average money market fund assets were up over $5 billion in the fourth quarter, while the quarter end totals increased by nearly $11 billion to $256 billion. Its market share for money market funds increased slightly in the fourth quarter.
He attributed the stability of the money fund business to long-standing brand loyalty, and had this to say:
So our $100 billion of prime funds is related to our clients who, in large part, see us as a provider of a cash management service. Most of our clients, not all, are dealing with us on an omnibus basis and we provide all sorts of additional services to them. If you take a trust department, they are used to dealing with Federated because even guys like me used to call on them back in the stone age in the '70s, and we have a long heritage and culture dealing with them. And so we know their problems, we know their challenges, we have legal accounting and service things that help them make a big difference. So we withstood a lot of competition where people would come in and say, "Oh, will charge less," and things like that. And I'd day, "But yes, but do you do A, B, and C which are all the services that are offered by Federated to these clients and have been doing so for many, many years." So the chief competitive advantage we have as against some of the other players you mentioned, is that degree of service and that degree customer contract over the long haul.
Regarding the ongoing debate over reforming the fund category, he said this:
For the regulatory front, I'll start out by noting that with the industry up $90 billion in money market assets in the fourth quarter, it's obvious that money market investors have remained confident about the product as it's presently constructed: Dollar in, dollar out; uninsured; transparent; invested in a diversified portfolio of high-quality securities; and supported by proper accounting and market valuations. Still the regulators continue on their mission to reform money funds in ways that, as presented by FSOC in their letter to the SEC in November, will raise debt costs for municipal issuers, corporations and others are causing investors to move cash to investments that are far less regulated, have far less transparency and which, in the case of the still too-big-to-fail banks, present far more systemic risks to the financial system.
With the comment period extended until mid-February on FSOC's Section 120 SEC letter, we continue to be active in informing our customers and the marketplace about the dangers of the measures outlined by the FSOC, and to offer our help to the regulators to arrive at constructive changes. Our position is straightforward. We will continue to champion those things that enhance the resiliency of money market funds, while retaining the core features of a sound product with an unparalleled long record of safety and success, namely daily liquidity at par to the market rate of interest.
POINT #2: Federated is Seeing Some Equity Momentum -- But No "U-Turns"
Donahue had this to say about equity fund sales:
I think if I look at our equity funds sales and just look at it on a monthly basis, you can see a bit of a pickup from a gross sale standpoint, recognizing that we're literally talking about a couple weeks of data. We're looking at numbers that go through the end of last week, so they're not even reflective of this week. If you do the same thing on fixed income, you would see a bit of a decrease, say, in gross sales on a run-rate basis, January versus December. So I think the answer is yes, we're seeing some of that, but it isn't like a U turn.
He noted that flows for equity mutual funds and separate accounts combined, "were slightly negative for the fourth quarter and solidly positive for the full year."
He broke down the demand in this way:
We continue to see solid demand for income-oriented equity products, particularly the Strategic Value Dividend, both in its domestic and international forms and the Capital Income Strategies.
Other strategies with net inflows included are Managed Volatility product in the variable annuity space, Muni and Stock Advantage, Clover Small Value, International Leaders and Kaufmann's Large Cap.
In 2012, we saw a continued strong performance in our international strategies. As mentioned, the International Leaders Fund was in the top 1% of its category for 2012, and in the top 10% for the 3-, 5- and 10-year periods. Federated InterContinental Fund placed in the top 15% for 1 and 3 years. Among our income strategies, is the Capital Income Fund is top quartile for 1, 3, 5 and 10 years. The Domestic and International Strategic Value Funds are top 8 and 14% for trailing 3 years in their respective categories. These funds pursue a highly specialized, highly defined income strategy targeting a 5% dividend and 5% growth in dividends. Because of this, broad category performance comparisons are much less relevant.
We also saw improvement in Kaufmann and MDT Strategies. While all 3 Kaufmann strategies we're top quintile for 2012, the Large Cap Fund was in the top 1% of its performance ranking, and the Small Cap Fund achieved results in the top 2% of its category. Three MDT Strategies were in the top 15% of their categories for 2012.
Meanwhile, he had this to say about fixed income:
Looking now at fixed income. Net positive sales were $580 million in the fourth quarter and nearly $5 billion for the full year. Our wide array of high-quality fixed income funds, combined with effective product distribution, enabled us to produce gain sharing, shared gains in sales in 2012. We had 30 bond funds, which produced positive net sales in 2012. These funds spanned a wide array of strategies, including High Yield, Unconstrained, Corporate, Blended, Emerging Market, Municipal, Government and Stable Value. Federated's market share gain of gross fixed income sales went from 1.58% in '11 to 1.79% as of the end of November.
In Q4, High Yield strategies had another solid quarter of inflows, as did our Ultrashort and other short duration funds. Spread products, including our Total Return, Strategic Income, Floating Rate Strategic Income, Emerging Market Debt and Federated Bond Funds had positive flows as well. We ended the year with 11 fixed income strategies with top quartile 3-year records and 5 strategies in the top quartile on a 1-year basis. Our 3-year members include Fed bond, High Yield, Intermediate Government, Emerging Market debt, Ultrashort Bond and others.
POINT #3: Federated is Building Up its Global Operations Aggressively
Here is how Donahue described their global expansion:
As regards acquisitions and our offshore business, we are laying the groundwork for growth in the Asia Pac region. We have hired a headquarter staff for our new Asia Pacific subsidiary based in Melbourne, Australia. We will begin in 2013 to establish institutional distribution capabilities for various Federated strategies including U.S. High Yield, Core Broad and Emerging Market Debt. Over time, we also plan to develop Australian-based investment management capabilities, expand our distribution capabilities to other parts of the Asia Pac region, and eventually develop investment management capabilities in other parts of the region as well.
In Europe, we have launched sales efforts with London-based Bury Street Capital to expand distribution for certain of our equity and fixed income UCITS products. We expanded our UCITS product line in December. We have worked with Bury Street to introduce our high-yield capabilities, and to also focus on dividend strategies during the first quarter. Our London-based Prime Rate Capital Management operation has seen assets increase from $4.2 billion, this is quoted in dollars even though most of the money is in pound sterling, but from $4.2 billion in dollars when our deal closed in April to about $5 billion in the fourth quarter.