April 27, 2017 / 11:13 AM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 4-Lazard profit beats estimates as deal-making picks up

* First-qtr adj. profit 83 cents/shr vs est 79 cents/shr

* Financial advisory revenue up 26.2 pct

* Asset management revenue up 16.2 pct

* Shares rise 2.3 pct (Adds Breakingviews link, updates share price)

By Nikhil Subba

April 27 (Reuters) - Lazard Ltd reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit, mainly driven by growth in its financial advisory business as cross-border mergers and acquisitions got off to the strongest start in a decade.

Lazard was involved in several big cross-border deals in 2017, including Johnson & Johnson's $30 billion acquisition of Swiss biotechnology company Actelion and Harman's $8.7 billion buyout by Samsung.

Optimism over U.S. President Donald Trump's economic agenda buoyed the stock market and the dollar, making foreign acquisitions cheaper than some U.S. targets.

Cross-border M&As totaled $323.1 billion as of March end this year, the highest level since 2007, accounting for 45 percent of total M&A activity, according to preliminary Thomson Reuters data.

"We've increased our market share in M&A globally, with especially high levels of activity in Europe," Chief Executive Kenneth Jacobs said on a post-earnings call with analysts.

The first half of 2017 continues to look strong relative to last year, he said.

Lazard, often seen as a bellwether for the M&A advisory industry, said earnings from its financial advisory business surged 26.2 percent to $335.8 million in the first quarter ended March 31.

The company's shares fell 2.9 percent to $43 late Thursday afternoon.

Lazard also benefited from a strong performance in its asset management business, which the company has been building up to diversify its revenue stream.

Revenue from the asset management business rose 16.2 percent to $278.4 million, accounting for about 40 percent of the total revenue.

Major U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, also reported a jump in investment banking fees for the most recent quarter.

Global investment banking fees reached a 10-year high in the first quarter of 2017 with more than half of the $24 billion in total takings coming from North America, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Net income attributable to Lazard rose to $107.6 million, or 81 cents per share, in the quarter, from $66.8 million, or 50 cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned 83 cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 79 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue rose nearly 25 percent to $637.4 million.

Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Sriraj Kalluvila

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