Aberdeen CEO Eyes U.S. Deals After Henderson-Janus Merger

  • Gilbert says he wants to do similar deal transaction in U.S.
  • Shares fall as CEO sees headwinds for asset managers

Gilbert Warns of Headwinds Facing Asset Managers

Aberdeen Asset Management Plc head Martin Gilbert said he’d like to do a U.S. deal similar to U.K. peer Henderson Group Plc’s “very smart” tie-up with Janus Capital Group Inc.

Henderson Chief Executive Officer Andrew Formica “has done a great job getting that deal done,” Aberdeen’s CEO said on a conference call with journalists Monday. “We’d like to do something like that; there is nothing on the horizon.”

Martin Gilbert

Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Aberdeen, which reported 7.2 billion pounds ($9 billion) of net outflows in its fourth quarter on Monday, abandoned a potential bid for UniCredit SpA’s Pioneer Global Asset Management after saying the 3.5-billion euro ($3.7 billion) price was too high. A deal of that size would have been “too much of a stretch” for Aberdeen’s balance sheet, Gilbert said

The CEO has been buying up smaller businesses including FLAG Capital Management and Arden Asset Management to help diversify away from emerging markets, which have seen steady outflows for more than two years. Henderson’s $2.6 billion merger with U.S.-based Janus underscores the challenges that investment firms face in dealing with rising regulatory costs and growing pressure on fees from passive funds.

“We are seeing these very strong headwinds for the industry,” Gilbert told analysts on a separate conference call. “It is really brutal if you go and speak to the U.S. CEOs. The S&P is at a record high and morale among U.S. CEOs is sort of at a record low.”

Aberdeen shares fell as much as 3 percent and were trading at 278.10 pence at 11:56 a.m. in London trading after earlier rallying as much 5.6 percent.

Gilbert, who said in May that he wants the company to remain independent despite interest from competitors, said Aberdeen had kept “tight control” over costs in 2016 and remained on track to meet its savings target of 70 million pounds by March.

Weaker Pound

A weaker pound has helped the firm boost total assets under management to 312.1 billion pounds even after reporting 32.8 billion pounds of net outflows in the 12 months through September, according to a Monday statement. While pretax profit dropped 28 percent to 352.7 million pounds on lower fee income, Aberdeen still declared a final dividend of 12 pence per share.

The company saw the smallest outflows this year in the quarter through September as sentiment toward emerging markets turned positive. Gilbert said investors are more cautious about emerging markets after Donald Trump’s U.S. election victory sparked concern that he will pursue inflationary policies that will force the Federal Reserve to become more aggressive in raising interest rates.

“We are not seeing the levels of outflows that we have seen but it’s not as positive as it was before the election,” the CEO said. “It’s a pity because sentiment was turning and we had a good quarter in equities. Our private banking clients were positive on emerging markets and have gone back to neutral again.”

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