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Feb 5 (Reuters) - Investment bank and asset manager Lazard Ltd reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as a jump in corporate dealmaking boosted M&A advisory fees.
The company has been focusing more on asset management to be less reliant on financial advisory fees. Unlike its larger peers, it has steered clear of trading, which faces challenges from new regulations and weak debt markets.
Lazard's M&A and other advisory fees rose 17 percent to $297.2 million in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from a year earlier.
Among the deals Lazard advised on during the quarter were specialty drugmaker Arbor Pharmaceuticals LLC's sale of stake to KKR and the acquisition of Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto by British consumer goods group Unilever Plc.
The company, which has been hired by Greece for debt and fiscal management, said adjusted net profit rose to $172 million, or $1.29 per share, in the latest quarter from $110 million, or 81 cents per share.
Analysts on average had expected earnings of $1.06 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Lazard's shares were up 2.3 percent at $50 in premarket trading on Thursday.
The company reported a rise of 7 percent in average assets under management to $196 billion.
Total operating revenue rose 4 percent to about $646 million, topping the average analyst estimate of $616 million.
Globally, deals worth $3.48 trillion were struck in 2014, up 47 percent from 2013, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Companies announced $924.18 billion of deals globally during the quarter, up 38.3 percent from a year earlier.
Smaller rival Evercore Partners Inc reported a 64 percent rise in quarterly profit on Wednesday, helped by strong gains from its investment banking business. (Reporting by Neha Dimri in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)