(Adds comments from Lazard CEO, background on M&A environment)
By Joshua Franklin
July 31 (Reuters) - Investment bank Lazard Ltd on Friday reported an 8% fall in second-quarter adjusted earnings per share, a smaller drop than analysts had expected, as the slowdown in corporate dealmaking due to the COVID-19 pandemic weighed.
The slump came as global M&A activity, one of Lazard’s main revenue drivers, tumbled to its lowest level in more than a decade in the second quarter, as companies gave up on expansion plans to focus on protecting their balance sheets and employees in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Larger M&A activity has shown signs of picking up in the third quarter with 40 deals worth at least $1 billion announced during this month, down almost one third on July, 2019 but up 29% from June, according to Refinitiv data.
“The one thing we’ve learned form this pandemic is that it’s reasonably difficult to predict the future. That said, it feels like Q2 probably turns out to be the low (M&A activity),” Lazard Chairman and Chief Executive Kenneth Jacobs said in an interview.
“At least at the moment there seems to be an increasing pace of conversations.”
Lazard, whose business is split between financial advisory and asset management, said earnings per share was 67 cents, well ahead of a median of analysts’ expectations for 38 cents, according to Refinitiv, and compared to 73 cents a year earlier.
Operating revenue from Lazard’s financial advisory business, its biggest source of earnings, dropped 11% in the second quarter year on year.
Fellow investment banking advisory firm Evercore has also reported falling revenues for the quarter.
New York-based Lazard said average assets under management at the end of the second quarter was $215 billion, up from $193 billion in the prior quarter.
Lazard shares are down 30% so far in 2020, lagging the benchmark S&P 500 index.
Reporting by Joshua Franklin in Boston; editing by John Stonestreet and Marguerita Choy