By Jed Horowitz
NEW YORK, April 23 (Reuters) - Ameriprise Financial Inc , the acquisitive Minneapolis-based mutual fund and wealth-management company, has no plans to pursue big deals in the immediate future, the company said Tuesday.
"At this point, we don't see any large properties in the marketplace that meet our acquisition criteria," Chief Executive James Cracchiolo said on a conference call with analysts to discuss the company's 11 percent gain in first-quarter operating earnings per share that it reported on Monday evening.
Ameriprise, which bought Bank of America's Columbia Management mutual fund unit in early 2010 for about $1 billion, was poised to lead an 800 million pound ($1.22 billion) bid for Lloyds Banking Group's asset management unit, The Sunday Times reported on April 21.
"We continue to get smarter" about acquisitions, Cracchiolo said. "We're not naive anymore."
Some analysts on the call expressed concern as to why investors continue to withdraw money from Columbia and Threadneedle funds long after Ameriprise's acquisitions.
Total outflows of $5.7 billion at the company's funds were higher than expected, Ameriprise officials acknowledged, in large part reflecting withdrawals at the former parents of Columbia and Threadneedle where the funds are not being sold as aggressively as when they were in-house products.
Threadneedle, formerly owned by Zurich Financial Services, was bought by a predecessor of Ameriprise more than ten years ago.
Ameriprise, which had $2.3 billion of cash as of March 30, on Monday said it is deploying some of its excess cash to raise its quarterly dividend by 7 cents to 52 cents a share, and will continue to return a high percentage of its profits to investors through stock buybacks or dividends.
Ameriprise ended the first quarter with $466 billion of assets under management and ranks as the eighth biggest manager of long-term U.S. mutual funds. Cracchiolo said he expects more consolidation in the asset management industry but will participate only if deals add value.
Ameriprise's other primary business is wealth management, where it sells securities and financial planning to middle-income investors. It ended the first quarter with 9,777 brokers, up 33 from a year earlier. About 2,000 are direct employees and about 7,500 are independent advisers who contract with Ameriprise for business support and products.
Cracchiolo said hiring throughout the retail brokerage industry slowed late last year and in the first quarter because fiscal cliff and tax-policy issues focused brokers more intensely than usual on client concerns than on considering jumping to other firms. He also said that Ameriprise has been focusing on hiring more productive brokers than usual, an area that is more competitive.
Shares of Ameriprise were up 2.3 percent to $74.05 in late morning trading. They have gained 15.6 percent this year.