Morgan Stanley Still Shining

Financial services giant Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS  ) just posted another impressive quarter of double-digit revenue and earnings growth, and it continues to outshine archrivals Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) and Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER  ) . It will also soon part ways with its underperforming credit card unit, which should only serve to boost profitability.

The first-quarter results Morgan reported yesterday saw net revenue jump 32%. Reported diluted earnings continued their impressive run, improving 41%. Return on average common equity came in at 27.5%, up from last year's 23.7%, marking the seventh straight quarter it's topped 20%. CEO John Mack stated that the firm is on its way to doubling 2005 earnings within the next five years.

Nearly every division reported solid results for the quarter. Morgan Stanley operates in the three key areas of the securities business: underwriting securities, managing brokerage assets, and managing portfolios.

The company's Discover unit, however, posted another drop in net revenue and pre-tax income. Morgan will spin off Discover to shareholders within the next couple of weeks, letting the unit compete on its own against MasterCard (NYSE: MA  ) , Visa, and American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) . Its shares are currently trading on a "when issued" basis; after the spinoff, they'll carry the DFS ticker.

It's surprising how fast Morgan continues to grow, given that it just posted $11.5 billion in quarterly revenue and manages hundreds of billions of dollars in client assets. It also appears to be unharmed by subprime mortgages that are denting results at Bear Stearns (NYSE: BSC  ) and Goldman. Even more surprisingly, in less than two years, John Mack has turned Morgan from a chronic underperformer to the toast of Wall Street.  

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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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