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Legg Mason's Inorganic Strategies Impress, Outflows a Woe

Zacks Equity Research

Legg Mason’s LM inorganic growth strategies and cost savings measures continue to benefit financials. However, persistent equity assets under management (AUM) outflows keep its top line under pressure.

Last week, the company had reported 1% rise in AUM for November from the prior month. The increase was attributed to higher fixed income and liquidity inflows, partly offset by equity outflows.

Shares of Legg Mason have gained 32.5% over the past year, outperforming industry’s rally of 28.7%.

Also, the company’s earnings estimates for fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 have been revised 8% and 3.9% upward, respectively, in the last 60 days. The stock currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

The Baltimore, MD-based investment manager continues to undertake inorganic growth strategies on the back of its sound liquidity position. So far, these acquisitions have helped the company expand its product offerings and global reach.

Legg Mason’s cost control measures are also impressive. The company’s business model restructuring helped it reduce costs in the past. Though higher compensation costs led to increased expenses in the first six months of fiscal 2018, its initiatives are expected to keep costs under control for fiscal 2018.

Notably, outlook for the company has been raised from negative to stable by Moody's Investors Service. Legg Mason’s continuous net inflows to its global distribution unit was successful in impressing the rating agency. Also, stabilization of its credit profile as reflected by lower leverage, supported the change.

Owing to poor performance of its investment management segment, the company has been witnessing equity AUM outflows in the last few years. The trend was also reflected in the first six months of fiscal 2018.

Regulations imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission have become stricter and detrimental to the company’s business. Also, the current cyclical and secular pressure in the industry remains a major concern for Legg Mason.

Stocks to Consider

Some better-ranked stocks in the same space are Federated Investors FII, Ameriprise Financial Services AMP and Lazard Ltd. LAZ. All these stocks hold a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Federated Investors has witnessed an upward earnings estimate revision of 3.4% for the current year, in the last 60 days. Also, its share price has jumped 29.1%, over the past year.

Ameriprise’s Zacks Consensus Estimate for current-year earnings has been revised upward by 6% for the current year, in the last 60 days. Also, over the past year, its share price has gained 50.8%.

Lazard has witnessed an upward earnings estimate revision of 3.8% for the current year, in the last 60 days. Its share price has gained 24.7% over the past year.

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