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Executives

Robert Bogart – SVP and CFO

Blake Goldring – Chairman and CEO

Mario Causarano – President and COO, AGF Trust Company

Analysts

Geoff Kwan – RBC Capital Markets

Doug Young – TD Newcrest

John Reucassel – BMO Capital Markets

Paul Holden – CIBC World Markets

AGF Management Limited (AGF.B) F3Q2010 Earnings Call Transcript September 29, 2010 11:00 AM ET

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to AGF’s third quarter 2010 financial earnings conference call. During the presentation, all participants will be in a listen-only mode. Afterwards, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. As a reminder, this conference call is being recorded, Wednesday, September 29, 2010. Your speakers for today are Mr. Blake C. Goldring, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AGF Management Limited; and, Mr. Robert J. Bogart, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of AGF Management Limited.

Today's call and accompanying presentation may include forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are given as of the date of this call and involve risks and uncertainties. A number of factors and assumptions were applied in the formulation of such statements and actual results could differ materially. For additional information regarding such forward-looking statements, factors and assumptions, AGF directs you to the caution regarding forward-looking statements, which is contained on page two of the presentation, AGF's MD&A for the three and nine months ended August 31, 2010, and AGF’s most recent annual information form.

I will now turn the call over to Mr. Bogart. Please go ahead, Mr. Bogart.

Robert Bogart

Thank you, operator. Good morning, everybody. I am Bob Bogart, CFO of AGF Management Limited. It's a pleasure to have you join us for today’s call. Please note that the slides supporting today's call and web cast can be found in the Investor Relations section of AGF.com.

Today, Blake Goldring, Chairman and CEO and I will discuss AGF’s third quarter results. Also joining us on the call and available to answer questions is Mario Causarano, President and COO of AGF Trust.

I’ll now turn the call over to Blake.

Blake Goldring

Thank you, Bob, and welcome to everyone listening to today's conference call. Since our last update in late June, equity markets continue to remain somewhat volatile despite some positive activity in September. For example, during our fiscal third-quarter the S&P/TSX was up 1.3%, while the S&P 500 and NASDAQ were down 2.1% and 4.8% respectively. Of course, that is in Canadian dollar terms.

Concerns remain about the global economic recovery being stalled and losing momentum, thus impacting market sentiment. It is expected that global economic growth will be subdued for an extended period of time. Even though the Canadian economy has faired better as far as jobs, addition of jobs, the indicators also point to slower than expected progress for the economy.

It is fair to say that the global recovery is in a transitory phase, where government stimulus is being replaced by a more self-sustaining consumer spending and business investment led recovery. All this means that continued uncertainty for investors and preference for bonds [ph] and income products, which we are also continuing to focus on.

Last quarter, I highlighted a number of new products we launched to address these needs, and we expect to gain traction over time. In the meantime, we continue to forge ahead in our growth plans and our strategic activities. Our goal, as always, is to help investors succeed in all market environments and life stages. Our overall financial picture remains strong, and we continue to plug away at the redemption trend.

Let me begin by providing you with our financial highlights for the last quarter. Similar to the previous quarter, we continue to track well in all fronts. For example, our AUM continues to be up year-over-year. At quarter end, assets under management were $42.6 billion compared to $41 billion for the same period last year. Total consolidated revenue increased to $148.7 million compared to $146.9 million in the third quarter of 2009.

EBITDA also increased by 8.7% year-over-year to $61 million. On the Trust side of the business, our financial picture was equally positive and our capital position remained strong. While loan assets were down year-over-year to $3.2 million, part of the increase was a 34.7% decline in the provision for loan losses for an overall 15.2% increase in EBITDA to $10.6 million.

Our diluted earnings per share were $0.31 in the third quarter compared to $0.25 in the same period last year. On an adjusted basis, our diluted earnings per share were $0.34. Bob will talk about the adjustment later in the presentation.

Finally, in keeping with our commitment to returning value to shareholders, we paid dividends of $0.26 per share and bought back 846,000 shares during the quarter. Moving to the next slide, I want to look at our assets under management as it shows that our diversification strategy is working. We consider diversification to be one of our strengths and essential to being a successful investment management firm.

As you can see from this slide, our asset base is split evenly between institutional, high net worth and retail assets. We have achieved this intentionally because we believe that a diversified business model will deliver the most value to our shareholders. We are diversified by client, by investment style, and by our geography. We serve Canadian and international investors through our retail, institutional, and private counsel businesses.

We offer a diversified family of mutual funds and managed asset programs. These include investment strategies that span the globe with a balanced, fixed-income, equity and specialty asset categories. At a time when our retail products are being challenged by market volatility and low investor confidence in the overall markets, our institutional growth has been steady. We offer a broad array of mandates to institutional investors that we are continuing to expand.

We are also diversified globally with operations and investments in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. We have retail sales offices across Canada that manage advisor and strategic account relationships. We have got investment management offices in Toronto, London, Ontario, Dublin and Singapore. 2010 saw us expand our institutional operations further with our office in Hong Kong and increased focus on our Europe, Middle East business, as well as we are developing out of our Dublin office.

The momentum and robust pipeline that we have in the segment has been due in part to our ability to successfully leverage investment management experience originally developed for our retail business. We continue to look for opportunities to leverage our resources, capabilities and successes between these two business lines as part of our diversification strategy. Now I’m going to turn it back to Bob to discuss our financial goals and our results in greater detail.

Robert Bogart

Thank you, Blake. One slide six we have provided a summary of our consolidated financial results for the third quarter of 2010 compared to 2009. Blake had mentioned many of these at the opening, so I will just provide some color. AUM increased 3.8% year-over-year. This was due to market improvements combined with net inflows from new institutional mandates, partially offset by net redemptions within the retail bonds.

Trust loan assets declined 14.4% to $3.2 billion reflecting the normal reduction of loans for amortization and pay downs. Consolidated revenue was up just over 1%, due to the higher revenue in the Investment Management segment. Overall, SG&A was down approximately 2% due to reductions in our investment management operations. I will provide some more color on those items impacting SG&A in a moment.

These factors, combined with the decrease in Trust loan loss provisions drove an increased EBITDA by almost 9% to $61 million. EBITDA margin increased to 41%, up 7.3% year-over-year. Net income for the quarter was $27.8 million, up nearly 22% year-over-year. Diluted earnings per share were $0.31. And finally, free cash flow increased 18% to $42.3 million.

Turning to slide seven, let us look at the Investment Management segment. Third quarter revenues in our Investment Management were up 3.2% year-over-year to $124.2 million, which is directly correlated to the higher institutional AUM levels. On a sequential quarter basis, revenues were down 6%, primarily due to a 4.3% decline in average mutual fund assets in the third quarter. However, the favorable markets we have experienced in September have helped AUM levels to rebound.

SG&A expenses were down slightly on a year-over-year and sequential quarter basis. Current quarter expenses included a $3.5 million charge for proposed settlement related to legal proceedings regarding the market timing of class actions. Fund absorption expenses declined $3.6 million compared to the third quarter of 2009 due to an increase in management expense ratio caps on certain funds, as well as improved cost management in our back-office operations.

EBITDA of $50.2 million increased 9.6% on a year-over-year quarter. On a sequential quarter basis, EBITDA was down 9.4% driven by the revenue impact. Overall, EBITDA margins were 40.4% for the quarter.

Turning to slide eight, this slide lets you see our segment performance on a longer trended basis, and smoothing out some of the impacts of market volatility. It shows our Investment Management segment operating expenses and EBITDA as a percentage of average AUM on the current quarter, a trailing 12-month basis, and the prior year's quarter. Note that the quarters have been annualized.

Q3 ‘10 average AUM is up roughly 7% compared to Q3 ’09 mainly due to institutional net flows and favorable market actions. Compared to the trailing 12 month period, Q3 ’10 average AUM is down roughly 3% due to net redemptions on the retail side and unfavorable currency impacts on AUM. Our revenue described in basis points has trended lower compared to the trailing 12-month period, as well as compared to Q3 ’09 period, due to changes in our asset mix of retail and institutional assets.

EBITDA is at 47 basis points in the book of business compared to 50 basis points on a trailing 12 month basis due to the impact of revenue, as opposed to any shift in our cost structure.

Moving to slide nine, we will take a look at the Trust results for the quarter. Trust revenue for Q3 ‘10 is $24.3 million, that's a decline of 4.3% on a year-over-year basis, and 2% on a sequential quarter basis. The decline is attributable to average loan balances, slightly offset by increases in net interest margin. SG&A expenses were flat year-over-year, while loan loss provisions were down 34.7% over that same timeframe. SG&A was down slightly by about $0.5 million on a sequential quarter basis. Resultant EBITDA increased to $10.6 million, up from $9.2 million in the third quarter of 2009, and up 1.9% on a sequential quarter basis.

Now moving to slide 10, Trust continues to hold net interest margin steady with the previous quarter and reflects an increase to 260 basis points from 230 basis points a year earlier.

On slide 11, we show the trended view for Trust loan loss provisions, as well as its efficiency ratio. First as represented by the bars, Trust experienced a decline in its provision for loan losses since last year, which has contributed to solid and more consistent results at Trust. Allowance for loan losses, not depicted on the slide was $33.8 million, reflecting a significant decline from $44.2 million in the third quarter of 2009, and $34.9 million as of Q2 2010.

Trust efficiency ratio has deteriorated slightly in Q3 ’10 from a year ago due to lower net interest in non-interest income, but reflects a slight improvement on a quarter-over-quarter basis. We anticipate that the efficiency ratio will trend up in the short-term as Trust turns its attention to growing its balance sheet in connection with the new advisor channel mortgage program, and the build out of required operational capacity.

On slide 12, we have reflected our EPS trajectory on an actual and an adjusted basis for the last five quarters, and our adjusted EPS for the third quarter of 2010 is $0.34, a 36% increase over Q3 2009.

And with that, I will turn the call back to Blake for closing remarks.

Blake Goldring

Thanks Bob. AGF continues to see many opportunities for growth, and as confidence in the market improves our retail business is well positioned to benefit. We’re sticking with our investment processes and focus on long-term performance. Additionally, we have strong relationships with our advisors and our strategic account partners on the retail side. Our institutional business has expanded with new offices and mandates. We have a good pipeline and good momentum in this segment, and will continue to tap into new markets around the globe.

Our Trust company operations are in solid footing. We got great potential with our new advisor mortgage program, and we will continue to take a targeted approach for growth that compliments our Investment Management business. Overall, we’re pleased with the results for the quarter and we continue to focus on executing our strategy, delivering value to all our stakeholders.

That concludes our formal remarks and now we will turn it back for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you. (Operator instructions) The first question is from Geoff Kwan of RBC Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

Geoff Kwan – RBC Capital Markets

Hi, good morning. First question I had for Bob was you mentioned in terms of the year-over-year decline in the fund absorption expense, how much of that 3.6 million would have come from raising the ER [ph] caps, and then versus the back-office efficiencies?

Robert Bogart

You know, Geoff, I just think – I probably won’t get into the specifics, but I think if you just look at the year-to-date absorption, and kind of trend that out for the full year that would be a good estimate in terms of where we’re going to finish the year but vis-à-vis the breakdowns, we are not prepared to share that.

Geoff Kwan – RBC Capital Markets

Okay. So the – I guess from the SG&A level, after you have normalized for the 3.5 million proposed settlement, would that be more kind of indicative of where you think the cost structure is right now, at least over the near term?

Robert Bogart

Probably a little more than that. So I wouldn’t adjust it for the full 3.5.

Geoff Kwan – RBC Capital Markets

Okay. And with respect to the settlement, is there anything else that make come out, whether or not it is another lawsuit or is this likely to be it?

Blake Goldring

Yes, Geoff it is Blake here. No, we were to terminate there. So, this is no time to say – we put this behind us.

Geoff Kwan – RBC Capital Markets

Okay. And the last question I had was either for yourself Blake or for Rose, if you don’t mind, are there any subtle changes you are just seeing in terms of the advisor sentiment or behavior that won’t necessarily be captured in some of the industry data that all of us would be seeing just from a numeric standpoint.

Blake Goldring

No, I think what we are seeing when you talk to – obviously, all rises from coast to coast and you know, there is a lot of anxiety, lot of nervousness frankly about really committing client assets back into the equity markets. You know, they don’t want to be caught in a situation with a double dip, and so, frankly, having to face clients that already suffered a big whack back in ’08. So, I think Geoff as soon as the (inaudible) we see a secondary increase in the equity markets, better confidence, people will go back, and they will go back in droves to the retail market.

And I will just further point out to that, if you think of the mentality of the advisor, I mean, they want to make sure their clients are going to outperform inflation, and your view on inflation, if you see a situation where you know, things start to take up, you are not going to get the type of returns that are required through fixed income investments. And that frankly has been the category where you have seen a lot of support in sales.

Geoff Kwan – RBC Capital Markets

Perfect. Great. Thanks Blake.

Blake Goldring

Thank you Geoff.

Operator

Thank you. The next question is from Doug Young of TD Newcrest. Please go ahead.

Doug Young – TD Newcrest

I guess the first question is probably for Bob, just going back to the Wealth Management SG&A, does this have any of the – any expenses in it yet for I guess the marketing campaign. I think that you have talked about this; you are going to be doing this fall. And the other thing, just I know historically Q4 SG&A has been lumpy due to the accrual nature, and I am just wondering, should we expect that in this Q4, and I have got a few follow ups. Thanks.

Robert Bogart

Okay. I think with respect to the first question, Doug, no, there is not a significant amount of marketing expenses baked into the Q3 number. And with respect to the second question, you know, we have attempted to – you can never can never, but we have attempted through the last three quarters to be prudent in terms of the estimate on our accruals. So, I wouldn’t expect the level of lumpiness that we may have experienced in the past.

Doug Young – TD Newcrest

Okay. And just keeping on the line of expenses, on the Trust business, you mentioned in your remarks, and I know Mario can jump in here too, but you are building up your operational capacity, can you maybe just elaborate on that. I know you have talked about it in the past, but what exactly you are going to be doing, and where should we be expecting the efficiency ratio to trend, when as you turn this book around and move it into expansion mode?

Robert Bogart

You want to take that?

Mario Causarano

Yes. Thanks Doug. So, we have been – obviously as we push out this advisor program, I mean, there is more cost that we move into the program. As we went through that cycle, we left some capacity in the organization, but as we start to take on more volume, and start to get more aggressive in acquisition that is where we are really adding the most capacity and the most investment. So that is going to be in line with the growth of the book fundamentally.

In terms of where the efficiency ratio should come in, I mean, you are going to see it going up. I mean there are two elements to that. You know, the other side of that is the net investment margin that you are making. And so unfortunately there is a timing difference between putting an asset on the books, and by the time it starts generating that investment income for you, and you are upfront investment in terms of acquiring it and getting it on. So, it is going to be in that – that is what probably was going to push it. And historically our number has been somewhere in the 40s. We have had it as low as around 36, 37. But it is going to go north of 40 for a bit.

Doug Young – TD Newcrest

And then most of this is just adding people Mario?

Mario Causarano

It is predominantly adding people. I mean, we’re looking at – we’re making some system enhancements, but they are not – I guess, they are not huge in terms of system investments, but there is some of that as well, but fundamentally people.

Doug Young – TD Newcrest

Okay. And then just lastly for Rose, can you give us a bit of an update in terms of, you have had a plan of adding RFP programs. I think you had two RFPs that you were hoping to get back from fall, and I’m just wondering where you stand with winning new mandates from that. Thank you.

Blake Goldring

It is Blake here. I am going to – in working to get onto different programs, (inaudible) just earlier we experienced – we got focus fund, which is an effort on group of products that are ideally suited for this market right now, and we have had $321 million net sales in that category – in that product group to date. So, we’re executing these various strategies Doug, we are seeing some good growth in the areas where we put the emphasis.

Doug Young – TD Newcrest

Has there been any recent wins Blake?

Blake Goldring

You know, what we have done, we've hired a new head of the strategic accounts group, and we're working on a couple of platforms right now, and getting on different preferred lists.

Doug Young – TD Newcrest

Can I sneak this last one, institutional side, was it net positive flows on the institutional side, and could you quantify?

Robert Bogart

We don’t break out – you understand there are often – we have got lot of things on the go with their long lead times for the institutional. And then, you know it is one situation where sometimes we have lost accounts, but we would also be winning more than our share. I guess that is the best way to put it.

Doug Young – TD Newcrest

Okay. I will leave it at that. Thanks.

Operator

Thank you. The next question is from John Reucassel of BMO Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

John Reucassel – BMO Capital Markets

Thank you. Just first question for Mario, Mario just you talked about this new program that you are launching in the fall, and I’m trying to get a sense of probably what you think is probably a good growth rate to expect out of this I guess. This depends on your view of how much more leverage the Canadian consumer can have, and what type of market share you can take. So, what – if we look out a year or two, what type of loan growth from this type of initiative should we expect out of the Trust business?

Mario Causarano

You know, John, let me describe it I guess from two ways. One, we got out of the gate with this program in April, and what we are seeing is a continued momentum in terms of it, and moving forward from a growth perspective. You know, we keep making adjustments to it along the way. One of the things that I am very pleased about is the quality of what this book is looking like. I mean it is of significant quality at a good price.

So, I mean, those are all great things. We haven’t hit our stride yet in terms of run rate. We have got one more region to come out with. We just launched it about a week or so ago. And so, I’m not going to give you a number. I can tell you that it will generate a significant amount of volume for us from a growth perspective going forward. And then what we’re going to do is take out that model and I mean – I think that is really where you will see us go with it.

It is unique to the channel, and not everybody can get into the channel. One of the reasons that we are in is because there are fewer players being able to get inside this channel, and we think we can leverage on that opportunity. And that is what you will see us do going forward. So the best I can give you in terms of kind of a forecast is it will be significant in terms of the amount of business we are going to generate out of that.

John Reucassel – BMO Capital Markets

Okay. And the NIMs [ph] on that business, are they better than what you are currently reporting or about in line? What is your kind of view of the spread going forward here?

Mario Causarano

So, they have been in line with the business that we have been generating, and the NIMs that we have been generating. And that is because this particular launch, and this particular product is unique to the channel that we are dealing with, and to the dealer that we are dealing with. And they factor it into our financial planning exercise, and as a result we have been able to maintain some good spreads on that.

You know, as we push out going forward, and as we get beyond this group, and back into the mortgage broker world at some point, you know, as you change the mix of your business, prime versus nonconforming, you will get a little bit of NIM compression there for sure. But in this program we are not seeing it at all to date.

John Reucassel – BMO Capital Markets

Okay. Okay, I guess, a question for Blake, just trying to summarize your comments on the net flow outlook, and you talked about some programs getting traction, but are you trying to say to us in simpler terms, or I am trying to summarize this, equity markets have to comeback before you are going to be net flow positive, is that – there has to be a stronger rebound of equity markets before your net flows turn solidly positive?

Blake Goldring

I think we have got a number of interesting products that frankly are ideally suited to clients in this environment, and so there was a period where we were underrepresented in those high flow categories, the ones that are selling right now, and I think John, we have really gone and plugged those gaps. So, you know, we got solid relationships with advisors, and it is really critical to get out there and talk, and introduce our different managers, and you know, talk about the strength of our bench, and our management, and this is happening.

And we are seeing some encouraging signs, I must say. So, I wouldn’t say that is a precondition by any means, but it will be something which would certainly accelerate it to a great degree.

John Reucassel – BMO Capital Markets

Okay. And you talked about some good signs, you mentioned one product that had – it was $365 million in net inflows year-to-date?

Blake Goldring

This is in fact what we call our focused funds.

John Reucassel – BMO Capital Markets

And have there been any other indications, positive indications?

Blake Goldring

Well, I mean, there is positive – number of positive indications, everything from discussions, which talk about strategic account levels to platforms, participation with different distribution partners, you know, different products that we have come out with, which are really targeted for yield and lower volatility, and I mean that continues. So, this means that we are all over this issue. We know what is required to get the job done there John.

John Reucassel – BMO Capital Markets

Okay. Thank you.

Operator

(Operator instructions) The next question is from Paul Holden of CIBC. Please go ahead.

Paul Holden – CIBC World Markets

Okay. Thank you. First question is for Mario, on the loan loss provisions, we have seem them come up a little bit higher over the last two quarters versus the prior two, maybe you can make some comments regarding why they have ticked up, and maybe what is up going forward?

Mario Causarano

Okay. Thanks Paul. Well, let me say that I’m very pleased with the way all of our portfolios are performing. We track a lot of metrics around performance. So things like default rates, positive [ph] and default loss rates, they are all trending very positive in all of them. Our legal loss book and our legal files have come down substantially, and so everything is performing well from my perspective.

You know, when you go back, I think you are talking about maybe two – there was a bit of a variance over the last two quarters from Q1. You know, there is always going to be some lumpiness particularly in that RSP portfolio. There is variability in that portfolio. So, you will get short-term movements that aren’t necessarily indicative of where the portfolio is going.

You know, we take a longer term view on it. And I can tell you that it is in line with our expectations. It is in line with kind of historical performance, and more importantly it is in line with our plan. I can also tell you that two things are happening. The quality of the book is improving, and as you put more volume with better quality to get a better performance on all of those portfolios, and so we are layering in that at the same time. So, I’m pleased with respect to where you know, the provisions are going, and I know you picked up a little bit of volatility from Q1 probably, but that is really just short-term variability predominantly on RSP fund program.

Paul Holden – CIBC World Markets

Okay. So, a loss ratio of approximately 55 basis points is what we should expect long-term, is that what you are saying?

Mario Causarano

Yes, I mean, it will change based on how we’re layering in quality over time. But that has historically been kind of where the number has always been. And we’re getting down to 2006 and 2007 provision rates at this point. So that is a good thing from our perspective. And as we layer in better quality, you know, over time, we will take a different look at it. And we are constantly looking at our methodology as we move forward, to look at what is actually happening with the portfolio.

Paul Holden – CIBC World Markets

Okay. And then I have a question related to the share buyback, I think this is the first time you repurchased shares in at least a couple of years, we have heard some of the asset managers say that they think – the other ones say that this is efficient use of excess capital, and they are not so price sensitive when it comes to buying back shares, can you give us a little more color on what your approach might be?

Robert Bogart

Well, Paul, it is Rob. We’re always constantly looking at ways to increase the return to our shareholders be it through dividends, share buybacks, as well as just reinvesting back into the business for organic growth, which I think is the most effective use of capital to the extent that you can deliver those financial results. So we continue to look at all three of those levers in terms of what the appropriate return is to the shareholders.

We saw an opportunistic time in terms of our shares being a little bit undervalued and so we are continuing to have the wherewithal to make use of capital in that regard.

Paul Holden – CIBC World Markets

Okay. And then with respect to the dividend, I think the increased effect of your fiscal Q2 this year, any reason to believe you would reconsider that dividend prior to that time, or are you more likely to increase dividends sort of once a year?

Robert Bogart

We are comfortable where the dividend is at currently, and I think that would be part of some of the capital planning that we look at post year-end as to whether or not – what we’re going to do with it up or down or sideways.

Paul Holden – CIBC World Markets

Okay. That is all the questions I had.

Operator

Thank you. There are no further questions registered at this time. I would now like to turn the meeting back over to Mr. Bogart.

Robert Bogart

Thank you operator. Thank you everyone for joining us today. Our next earnings call will take place in late January 2011 when we review our fiscal 2010 results. Details of the exact date and call will be posted on our website. Finally, an archive of the audio web cast of today’s call with supporting materials will be available in the investor relations section of our website. Thank you again and good day everyone.

Operator

Thank you. The conference has now ended. Please disconnect your lines at this time, and we thank you for your participation.

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