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Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Neal St. Anthony column

By Neal St. Anthony, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 04--Ameriprise Financial shares rose sharply in after-hours trading after the company reported late Tuesday that it topped Wall Street's profit estimates for the fourth quarter and full-year 2013.

"We had a very good quarter, and a terrific year," Chief Executive Jim Cracchiolo said in a prepared statement. "Our advisory and asset management businesses are leading our growth. Overall, assets are up significantly across the firm and we have particular strength in our advice and wealth management business, with robust client net inflows and good growth in adviser productivity.''

The company's stock price, which nearly doubled in value last year, rose 2 percent to a $103.54 per share close on Tuesday, albeit off its 52-week high of $116 amid the recent market downturn. The stock rose nearly $4.50 to $108 per share in after-hours trading on the earnings news before settling back to $106.

Executives of Ameriprise, a diversified financial services firm that manages a half-trillion dollars in client assets, will discuss the results during a conference call to Wednesday morning.

Minneapolis-based Ameriprise reported fourth-quarter operating earnings of $378 million, up 3 percent from a year ago, and operating earnings per diluted share up 9 percent to $1.87, which exceeded the Wall Street consensus estimate of $1.80 per share.

For the full year, the company generated 17 percent operating earnings growth to $1.5 billion, and operating earnings per share growth of 26 percent to $7.05 per share, beating analyst expectations of $6.96 per share.

Ameriprise benefited from the 30 percent rise in the stock market during 2013, which swelled asset-management fees and also increased the number of clients signing up for financial-planning services and financial-product purchases.

Total holdings of bonds, stocks and other investments grew 13 percent during the year to $771 billion.

Operating net revenues increased 8 percent to $2.8 billion, driven by strong fee-based business growth from client net inflows and increased client activity, as well as market appreciation, which more than offset pressure from continued low interest rates.

Operating expenses increased 7 percent to $2.3 billion, reflecting increased volume-related distribution expense, as well as higher expenses associated with the early retirement of debt. General and administrative expenses increased 1 percent compared to a year ago "reflecting the company's ongoing expense discipline."

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Ameriprise said it returned $1.9 billion, more than it earned, to shareholders during 2013, in the form of share repurchases and dividends.

Neal St. Anthony -- 612-673-7144


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