Top Stories
Top Stories
Wires

UPDATE 2-Australia's AMP cash outflows accelerate after misconduct revelations

Byron Kaye

revelations@

* AMP says Q1 net cash outflows A$1.8 bln vs A$200 mln in Q1 2018

* Company says wealth management challenged since inquiry

* Shares down 5 pct (Recasts with share price, investor comment, chairman AGM comment)

SYDNEY, May 2 (Reuters) - Australia's oldest wealth manager, AMP Ltd, posted a near nine-fold increase in cash outflows at its wealth management unit on Thursday in the wake of damaging revelations of misconduct, sending its shares down sharply.

The 170-year-old company was accused of charging fees for no service and attempting to deceive regulators at a government-mandated Royal Commission inquiry last year, which led to the loss of its chairman and chief executive. It has since hemorrhaged billions of dollars in funds and is facing class-action lawsuits.

"Cashflows in Australian wealth management continue to be challenged given the post-Royal Commission environment," Chief Executive Officer Francesco De Ferrari said in a statement.

The unit logged net cash outflows of A$1.77 billion ($1.2 billion) in the quarter to end-March, compared with outflows of A$200 million the same period the prior year, Australia's largest listed wealth manager said in a statement.

Net cash inflows and outflows are a closely watched performance measure for wealth managers as they show the amount of cash that customers are prepared to entrust in the company.

The company noted that its assets under management, which includes investment performance, rose 5 percent "with positive investment markets offseting weaker cash inflows."

AMP shares were down 5.2 percent in morning trading to just above the record lows they hit earlier in 2019. The shares have halved over the past year, while the broader Australian sharemarket has risen, due to a steady flow of bad news stemming from the Royal Commission.

"Last year people were pretty freaked out about what was going on at the Royal Commission, and it's taken a while for that to flow through," said Hugh Dive, chief investment officer at Atlas Funds Management.

He said the heavy outflow of funds has hurt AMP's profit margins, given that funds management is very much a fixed-cost business.

At the company's annual general meeting on Thursday, Chairman David Murray told shareholders the inquiry had damaged AMP more than other institutions due to its focus on advice and superannuation.

Murray, who took the role at AMP amid the Royal Commission fallout last year, was scheduled to ask shareholders to re-elect him to the role at the meeting.

The company was also set to ask shareholders to vote on its executive pay plans, which they voted against at the 2018 AGM.

Shareholders can call for a company's board to be dismissed if more than a quarter vote against pay plans for a second year in a row. AMP is likely to be spared such a disruption as large institutional investors have said they will vote in favor.

($1 = 1.4263 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Byron Kaye in SYDNEY and Ambar Warrick and Rashmi Ashok in BENGALURU; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Sonali Paul)