By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) -The London Stock Exchange Group reported a 3.9% rise in income in the first quarter and said savings from integrating its $27 billion acquisition of data and analytics company Refinitiv were on target.
About 40 million pounds ($55.5 million) of savings in combined operating costs from the Refinitiv takeover had been realised and new products had been launched, the group said.
It said it was on track to achieve 25% of the announced 350 million pounds savings target by the end of 2021, in line with previous guidance.
The group completed its $27 billion takeover of Refinitiv in January, turning the 300-year-old exchange into a financial market data giant overnight, although still number two behind leader Bloomberg LP.
In March, it outlined capital and operational costs following the Refinitiv deal that were bigger than investors expected, sending LSE shares tumbling. The stock has fallen about 20% since March 4, but was up 1.26% on Wednesday.
In a further setback, Refinitiv’s data terminals suffered a blackout lasting several hours this month.
Chief Financial Officer Anna Manz told a call with analysts that guidance of 850 million pounds in capital expenditure and 150 million pounds in operational costs for 2021 remained unchanged.
“We are exactly where we expected to be at the end of the first quarter,” Manz said.
RBC analysts said the “robust” first quarter figures pointed to a strong start in the delivery of cost synergies. Total income of 1.68 billion pounds and gross profit of 1.5 billion pounds were both in line with market expectations, they said.
Chief Executive David Schwimmer said Refinitiv had not delivered any surprises. “Refinitiv is exactly what we expected. We had done a lot of due diligence,” Schwimmer said.
The LSE would focus on integrating Refinitiv and reducing debt, and would only consider small acquisitions, Schwimmer said.
“You should not expect us to be going out and doing very large, big M&A at this point,” he said.
In a move welcomed by analysts, the LSE said it would hold investor events to give a “deeper insight” into the newly enlarged business, with the first on July 2 giving an overview of data and analytics.
At the exchange’s annual meeting held online on Wednesday due to COVID-19 restrictions, just over 76% of shareholders backed a 25% increase in Schwimmer’s pay due to the Refinitiv deal turning the exchange into a bigger, global company.
Advisory group ISS had recommended voting against the rise because of the higher-than-expected costs of integrating Refinitiv.
The LSE said it recognised that certain shareholders – 23% voted against the hike – would have preferred the increase to have been phased.
The exchange said it would continue to engage with its shareholders and carefully consider all further feedback before giving an update within six months.
The group said its divestment of Borsa Italiana was progressing and expected to be completed in the second quarter.
The LSE had said it would sell the Milan exchange in order to win approval for its Refinitiv takeover from European Union competition regulators.
Euronext is buying the Italian bourse, and Schwimmer said the proceeds would cut LSE debt to under 8 billion pounds from 12 billion pounds.
Thomson Reuters, the parent company of Reuters News, holds a 15% stake in the LSE following the Refinitiv deal.
($1 = 0.7206 pounds)
(Reporting by Huw Jones and Muvija M.; Editing by Carmel Crimmins, Edmund Blair and Mark Potter)