Shares in Icap slumped Friday morning as the company cut its forecasts and warned that new businesses are struggling to attain profitability. The UK interdealer broker also announced an agreement to acquire the outstanding shares in Swedish post-trade fintech venture TriOptima for an initial EUR109 million in cash.
Commenting on the third quarter and outlook, Michael Spencer, Icap CEO says: "Our established businesses continue to perform well in these challenging markets although some of our newer businesses are taking longer to achieve profitability. In the first weeks of 2010 overall activity levels rebounded, albeit at a slightly lower level than last year. Recently, regulatory uncertainty has increased and the regular seasonal pattern of market activity has been affected."
As a result, Icap now anticipates that profit before tax, amortisation and impairment of intangibles arising on consolidation and exceptional items for the financial year ending 31 March 2010 will be in the range £295 million to £315 million.
The City was unimpressed, especially as the warning comes less than a month after Spencer cashed in 10.3 million shares at a price of 440 pence per share. Investors reacted angrily, marking Icap's shares down to 308 pence in early morning trading.
Despite the setbacks, Spencer remains bullish about Icap's prospects.
"We expect to be able to take advantage of the likely restructuring of the financial markets post crisis and remain positive about the medium term outlook for the business," he says.
To this end, the group is making substantial investments in the cash-generative post-trade processing arena, and this morning agreed to acquire all the remaining share capital of TriOptima that Icap does not already own.
Says Spencer: "Post-trade services are an area where risk management allied with technology innovation is creating exciting new high growth opportunities for Icap."
Icap originally invested in TriOptima when the business was founded in 2001. The company now has 102 employees and gross assets of €36.5 million and in 2009 achieved profit before tax of almost €30 million.
Icap is paying an initial €109 million in cash to buy out the remaining 61.78% stake in the company, and has earmaked a further €12 million for working capital. Following the initial payment, there are two further potential payments based on revenue and profit targets for the period to 31 December 2012.
Following the acquisition, the senior management and founders of TriOptima, including Brian Meese, chief executive officer, will remain with the business.
In the half year to September 2009, 19% of Icap's profit came from post-trade and information services.
Other investments have had mixed results, with the company's newly-established Brazillian operations and shipping and cash equity businesses suffering.
In a statement, the company says: "We have continued to invest in these strategically important areas, with an incremental spend of over £50m in the year to date. Whilst recent market conditions and our investment spend have combined to affect margins adversely, the case for disciplined investment to improve long term value remains compelling."