MBL Upbeat

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

By the end of the day yesterday, some of the early enthusiasm for Macquarie Bank shares had been extinguished.

The early strength on the bullish pre-annual meeting statement by CEO, Allan Moss, and chairman, David Clarke, drove the shares up $1.62 to a day's high of $92.48 before they eased back under $92 to close around $91.87.

There was no sign of a rally that would take the shares back to the $97 a share paid in the annual placement after the 2007 results were released in May.

MBL shares are still well down on the all time high of $98.64 reached just after the release of the annual results in May, but they are up on the recent low of just under $84 reached earlier this month in a round of worries about buyouts and subprime mortgages.

But the tone was positive from the AGM and the commentary, although the market wouldn't have minded some hard profit numbers of flesh out the warm and fuzzy feeling.

There was an argument over executive pay, with 21 per cent of shareholders opposing the remuneration report, but that's a continuing saga at Macquarie AGMs.

Macquarie says it expects strong local and international growth to continue but to be predominantly organic (which means it will grow from the deals and other proposals it has in-house, rather than from acquisitions).

It said in the pre-meeting statement that the current financial year had started strongly across all groups.

Profit for the three months ending June 30, 2007 was substantially higher than the first quarter of the 2007 year, but no figures were given (a bit of 'trust me' there).

"The first quarter's performance reflects good market conditions and continued investment in growth," said chief executive Allan Moss who also saw strong initial public offerings (IPOs) and merger activity and good growth in specialist funds.

The bank's trading businesses also were expected to benefit from geographic and product expansion and good broking values.

"We expect to benefit from recent international staff growth to continue to maintain or strengthen our market positions in Australia and internationally," he said.

The current slowdown in global credit markets because of problems in the US subprime mortgage market was a reasonably healthy correction, according to the MBL CEO.

Mr Moss said MBL was in talks with banks over a new financing facility, but would not confirm market claims the facility could be $20 billion.

He said problems with US subprime mortgages had flowed on to most credit markets around the world with spreads in the corporate and general corporate debt markets having moved down significantly from where they were three to six months ago.

"So what we're seeing is a reasonably healthy correction and we don't expect that this will materially inhibit commercial activity over the medium term, for us or for financial services institutions generally.

"But it might get a little bit worse before it gets better."

Macquarie also revealed that it had considered moving its head office out of Australia, but had decided to stay here.

Mr Clarke said that as a result of the Bank's international growth, the Board had considered the Bank's head office location during the year.

"While a high and growing proportion of income is now international, Australia remains the Bank's largest market. Australia enables us to access good quality staff and service industries and is in the Asian time zone, which is a significant region for us. For these reasons, we have resolved to remain headquartered in Australia for the foreseeable future," Mr Clarke said.

The AGM was told the next annual meeting would be in Melbourne and raised a note of caution about the impact of the new so called Basel Two capital requirements, which could have a 'negative' impact on the bank. But this depended upon the local regulators.

"The overall result of all of these changes is very difficult to forecast and could be materially negative in respect to regulatory capital ratios in some circumstances.

"However, we continue to believe that we have adequate Shareholders' Funds from both an economic and regulatory perspective to support growth in the current financial year," said Mr Moss.

And on the bank's move to a non-operating holding company structure, a special meeting of shareholders to vote on this restructuring is expected to be held by the end of this year.

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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