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Affiliated Managers Group, Inc. (AMG -2.39%)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
February 4, 2019, 8:30 a.m. ET


Prepared Remarks:


Greetings and welcome to the AMG fourth quarter 2018 earnings conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. A question and answer session will follow the formal presentation. If anyone should require operator assistance during the conference, please press *0 on your telephone keypad. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to your host, Mr. Jeff Parker, Vice President, Investor Relations for AMG. Thank you. You may begin.

Jeffrey Parker -- Vice President of Investor Relations

Thank you for joining AMG to discuss our results for the fourth quarter of 2018. In this conference call, certain matters discussed will constitute forward-looking statements. Actual results could differ materially from those projected due to a number of factors, including but not limited to those referenced in the company's Form 10-K and other filings we make with the SEC from time to time. We assume no obligation to update any forward-looking statements made during the call.

AMG will provide on the investor relations section of its website at www.amg.com a replay of the call, a copy of our announcement of our results for the quarter, and a reconciliation of any non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures, including a reconciliation of any estimate of the company's economic earnings per share for future periods that are announced on this call.

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As a reminder, we have also included an updated investor presentation on this section of our website. AMG encourages investors to consult the investor relations section of its website regularly for updated information. With us on the line to discuss the company's results for the quarter are Nate Dalton, Chief Executive Officer and Jay Horgen, President and Chief Financial Officer.

With that, I'll turn the call over to Nate.

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Jeff, and good morning, everyone. As we all know, the fourth quarter of 2018 was challenging for us at Managers due to broadly negative returns across asset classes as well as the resulting client risk aversion, which impacted industry wide flows. In addition, the quarter had several extraordinary items that I wanted to briefly put into context our results and forward outlook.

First, while net client cash flows were negative due to both heightened client risk aversion as well as the fourth quarter seasonality we discussed on our last call, our organic growth outlook is already improving in 2019. Second, our business is structured differently from other asset management firms. This includes not only the diversity of our business and the quality of our affiliates, but also, importantly, our investment structure, which limits our exposure to operating leverage at the affiliate level, providing earning stability.

Third, we are actively positioning our business to focus on the highest growth opportunities ahead. Finally, because we've been disciplined in managing our balance sheet and we have the flexibility to execute on the opportunities this volatility will inevitably create.

Now, turning to the quarter. AMG reported economics earnings per share of $3.53 for the fourth quarter and $14.50 for the full year. While Q4 was down versus a year ago, primarily because of lower performance fees, our results for 2018 were in line with those for the full year, 2017. The combination of the timing of the market declines at the very end of the year with the breadth of the declines across asset classes and while a number of our alternative strategies generate good relative performance, they still had low or negative cash flow returns and therefore, we realized lower performance fees than we expected.

As we look forward, our performance fee opportunity is broad and diverse across a range of distinctive return streams with very good track records of outperformance. As a result, we are confident that performance fees will be a meaningful component of our future earnings growth profile as they have been in the past.

Turning next to flows, there were a couple of high-level themes that shaped our quarter. In general, elevated market volatility in the fourth quarter increased industrywide client risk aversion, which led to slowing sales activity and delayed funding. In addition, we had elevated levels of retail redemptions and equities and liquid alternatives due to fourth quarter seasonality which, in the case of liquid alternatives, was exacerbated by significant outflows from products with challenging recent performance relative to benchmark.

While still early in the first quarter, we were off to a much better start in 2019. We take a look at our publicly available data for January, our retail net flows are roughly flat. And while some of that is a reversal of the Q4 seasonality, which was particularly acute for us in 2018, the best retail month we've seen since last April.

Putting this all together, we expect good 2018 performance by many of our affiliates as well as improving flow trend dynamics, driving much better Q1 net flow results and continued improvement throughout 2019.

Now, while it was an extraordinary quarter in terms of the breadth of negative returns and client risk aversion, it's important to remain focused on the key elements of our business as we execute our growth strategy. Let me first start with the importance of diversity.

Over the past decade, we've built an incredibly diverse business through both the addition of new affiliates as well as organic growth through product development and innovation by the collective efforts of AMG and our affiliates. Today, our portfolio is diverse only by asset class and product category, loss of client segment, geography and channel, as well as by affiliate. There's no single affiliate contributing more than a low teens percentage to our EBITDA.

In the fourth quarter, even with the extraordinary breadth of negative market returns, we saw the benefits of the diversity of our asset mix, which is approximately 40% in alternative strategies. For example, our blended asset mix declined by roughly 8% in the quarter compared to the 13% decline in the MSCI World.

While diversity is obviously important, even more important is the ability of our affiliates to sustain high-quality distinctive return streams across a broad set of asset classes. With the return of volatility, many of our fundamental strategies outpace their respective indices and peers in the fourth quarter as well as for the full year. We believe that in general, volatility is good for asset managers.

As we noted last quarter, the data from our recently updated whitepaper, The Boutique Premium, illustrates that the long-term outperformance advantage of boutique has been most significant during more volatile periods, where their investment processes and disciplines are able to create significant outlook for their client.

This stands to reason as the elements that drive superior alpha generation by boutiques in the first place and investment-led entrepreneurial culture, meaningful equity ownership by the investment professionals, and a long-duration alignment with clients and partners all supporting long-term perspective, which encourages these firms to maintain their investment processes through volatile periods.

We're already seeing this reflected in our business, as the fourth quarter provided a more favorable environment for the highest-quality asset managers, such as our affiliates that distinguish themselves. While outperformance was broadly diversified across affiliates and geographies, global, US, and up and down the cap range, this outperformance was most prominent at some of our world-class value firms, such as Tweedy, Browne, Yacktman, Veritas, Beutel, and River Road.

The combination of market volatility and very significant outperformance is leading to a noticeable uptick in client interest and demand across channel. In addition to our strong performance across many fundamental equity strategies, a number of our liquid alternative products that affiliates such as AQR, Capula, Artemis, EFM, and Winton posted strong relative returns, which should position them to raise assets going forward.

While performance across our existing products and capabilities is critically important, we and our affiliates have been continuously innovating and developing new products with diverse, distinctive returns streams to match evolving needs across all market environments. As we talked about in our last call, we have a differentiated product development approach.

We benefit from product development that happens within our affiliates as well as from products we develop jointly with affiliates, of course, our unique opportunity to add immediately saleable products with proven track record in order to invest with them. This unique product development opportunity has been successful in creating a significant number of new products in the last five years, including some of our fastest growing products.

Examples are many and diverse across our traditional management firms, such as Artemis and TimeSquare are launching entire product suites of global, international, and emerging market strategies. In the case of GWK, they're building out an equity franchise, domestic and global, as well as most recently adding trilogies to proven emerging markets. Within liquid alternatives, firms such as Blue Mountain, Capula, and First Quadrant are taking advantage of market opportunities to build out ranges of systematic product in areas such as alternative credit, market neutral, global macro, and volatility.

Our illiquid alternative managers also continue to diversify their product offering, with Pantheon offering infrastructure, real asset, and credit, Bearing Asia extending into credit and real estate products, and the introduction of credit direct lending and operating capabilities at EIG.

Lastly, AQR continues to innovate its existing equity and alternatives franchises and is in the early innings of what could be a very significant systematic fixed income buildout. Alongside this product development opportunities, our unique distribution strategy, which combines the focused resources of each of our affiliates with the scope and scale of AMG's global distribution platforms, is an increasingly valuable component of our overall growth strategy.

This model affords our affiliates the opportunity to diversify their distribution capabilities and bring their spending products to the most appropriate pools of capital worldwide. Moreover, as leading clients worldwide and the intermediaries who serve them are consolidating their relationships with external managers looking for more efficient relationships and even partnership with a smaller number of investment management firms. AMG and our unique model are beginning to capitalize on those trends, and we can bring to bear the largest collection of independently managed distinctive return streams in the world.

As we discussed last quarter, we've been making progress and formalizing some of these relationships. For example, we entered into a strategic relationship with Nordea Asset Management, where we will work together to develop and place certain AMG affiliate strategies on their European and Latin American platforms.

Simply put, we're collectively leveraging our affiliates in manufacturing and product design and structuring work with Nordea's strong brand, scale, packaging, and distribution expertise in a strategic and addictive way to our existing efforts in these regions. We are currently very active in working on a number of near-term opportunities with them as well as the operational elements of this relationship. As we discussed on previous calls, while this is a relatively new initiative for AMG, we're making good progress toward establishing a range of these strategic relationships with something more formal and some less so.

Finally, as we also discussed in recent quarters, we've been actively reviewing our business to identify opportunities to improve efficiency in general and in particular to make sure that AMG and their affiliates' resources are focused on the risk adjusted return opportunities in the market.

At the affiliate level, we continue to support the positioning of their businesses for future opportunities. In some cases, this has included strategic activity, such as the combination of Trilogy and their emerging markets investing team in the GWK, resulting in enhanced opportunities for their collective clients and increasing both the growth opportunity and efficiency for GWK and AMG.

As Jay will explain further in a moment, we also reduced operating expenses at AMG and work with many of our affiliates, including where we participate in categories of expenses to help them ensure they are aligning the infrastructures of their business with the opportunities and challenges they see ahead.

Now, in addition to these elements of organic growth in our existing business, we have another complementary growth engine. AMG's business model provides a significant opportunity to generate increased earnings as well as to add immediately saleable products through investments in excellent new affiliates. AMG's equity ownership succession solution is very attractive to asset management boutiques that value their independence, want a permanent solution and access the scale of distribution platforms.

We continue to actively develop our proprietary relationships with leading boutiques. While the volatility of the fourth quarter inevitably impacted some discussions and more broadly the pace of activity is inherently based on the dynamics of each prospective affiliate, we have a good pipeline of high-quality new prospects. But we remain disciplined on pricing and alignment, particularly at this stage of the cycle.

In addition, as Jay will describe further, we continue to position our balance sheet to prioritize flexibility and prudent financial leverage in anticipation of continued market volatility, which in our experience, often creates the most compelling investment opportunity.

In addition to maintaining the financial flexibility to invest in new affiliates and continuing to execute on the other elements of our growth strategy, we also remain committed to consistently returning capital to our shareholders and we demonstrated this disciplined approach to capital allocation again in the fourth quarter.

Finally, while these are volatile signs, we built our business with diversity across multiple dimensions, asset class, geography, channel, and affiliates. Across this diversity, we have very high-quality distinctive return streams managed by extraordinarily experienced investment teams. We also have a unique strategy with low operating leverage, as you think about the revenue sharing model which underpins a significant majority of our business and we have prudent financial leverage.

These characteristics differentiate from other asset management firms while providing stability as volatility continues, but also importantly position us to take advantage of the opportunities this volatility will inevitably create.

Now, before I turn to Jay, I want to congratulate him on his appointment to President and thank him for his significant contributions as an integral member of AMG's senior team for many years. But in particular, I wanted to acknowledge his hard work and the true partnership he brought to Shawn and to me through the CEO transition. Shawn and I are looking forward to working with him in his new role as we grow our business and create long-term shareholder value.

With that, I'll turn it to Jay.

Jay Horgen -- President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning and thank you, Nate for your kind comments. I echo the sentiment and I look forward to contributing in my new expanded role. As Nate discussed, AMG's fourth quarter results were impacted by client risk aversion and declining markets, especially in the last two months of the year, as reflected in both our net client cash flows for the quarter as well as our annual earnings contribution from performance fees. We also had a number of one-time items in the quarter which I will describe in a moment.

In contrast to December, we have seen a marked improvement in both client cash flows and markets in January. Additionally, we are beginning to realize the benefits from expense management actions taken in the fourth quarter. Finally, with an uplift in markets and a new calendar year, we expect material growth and the contribution of performance fees to our earnings in 2019.

On flows generally, we experienced a higher level of redemptions from seasonality in the fourth quarter than in prior years, which included tax loss harvesting and selling ahead of year-end mutual fund distributions in the retail channel as well as the expiration of annual liquidity lockup and single and multi-year vehicles in both the institutional and high-net worth channel.

Taken together in the fourth quarter, we estimate the effect of seasonality and our quarterly flows, which was exacerbated by the market environment, to be between $7 billion and $9 billion. In addition, elevated volatility in the fourth quarter increased industrywide client risk aversion, which led to slowing sales activity and delayed funding, especially in the institutional channel.

Looking ahead, the first quarter typically brings a reversal to positive seasonal factors in our net client cash flow. Additionally, improvement in our fundamental equity performance is already contributing to positive, publicly visible flows thus far in January.

Turning to our flows by asset class and starting with alternatives, which account for 40% of our AUM, we reported outflows of $9.5 billion, driven by our liquid alternative strategies and partially offset by positive contributions from our illiquid product set. Our illiquids, which include strategies such as global and regional private equity co-investment, credit, real asset, infrastructure, and real estate had a solid level of funding in the fourth quarter.

We continue to see a steadily growing opportunity in illiquid as our affiliates build further on existing and new product capabilities. AMG's aggregate performance in illiquids is very strong, with 92% of our recent funds outperforming industry benchmarks on a net IR basis and 82% outperforming on a net multiple basis.

In our liquid alternatives category, encompassing our multi-strategy, systematic diversified, and fixed income and equity relative value strategies, we saw significant outflows as a result of challenging recent relative performance, which was exacerbated by seasonality, especially in the retail channel in the last two months of the year.

Our long-term investment performance in liquid alternatives remain strong, with 56% and 82% of our assets under management outperforming their benchmarks over a three and five-year period respectively.

Now, turning to equities, which account for 46% of our AUM. In the global equities' category, we saw net outflows of $3 billion in the quarter, almost entirely driven by emerging market products. AMG continues to generate good, long-term aggregate performance in this category with approximately 56% of our assets under management ahead of benchmarks over a five-year period, notwithstanding that our three-year number was impacted by challenging performance in emerging market products.

Among our affiliates in this category are some of the industry leading global and emerging market managers who continue to have excellent competitive position. In US equities, we reported net outflows of $3.9 billion due to fourth quarter seasonality and macro industry trends. However, looking at our public flows for January, we're beginning to see the benefits of significantly improved performance in this category.

A number of our largest fundamental value equity managers are top quartile performers on a relative basis. We now have 51% of our AUM outperforming benchmarks on a three-year basis in US equities, a notable improvement relative to prior years.

Turning to the multi-asset and other category, which accounts for 14% of our AUM and encompasses multi-asset and balance mandates within our wealth management business as well as a number of specialty fixed income and multi-asset products. Here, we posted $600 million in net inflows, primarily driven by our systematic fixed income product, which continued to generate good slow momentum as well as our wealth management, where a positive demand trends remain in place.

Now, turning to our financials. As you saw in the release, economics per share decreased by 25% to $3.53 for the fourth quarter, including $0.15 of net performance fees. This decline was largely due to a decrease in net performance fees down from $1.09 a year ago. On a GAAP basis, we reported earnings per share of -$2.88 reflecting the reduction in carrying value of Systematica.

For the fourth quarter, aggregate fees decreased 27% to $1.2 billion from a year ago and the ratio of aggregate fees to average assets under management declined year over year from 82 basis points to 63 basis points, entirely driven by lower performance fees. Notably, the ratio advisory fees to average assets under management remain flat year over year.

Adjusted EBITDA decreased 47% to $191.3 million from a year ago, primarily due to the timing and impact of negative markets at the very end of 2018, which led to significantly lower performance fees and other income for the year. In addition, EBITDA was lower due to a number of non-recurring expenses, including fourth quarter items related to expense management and AMG's donation to Mass General Hospital. Excluding these one-time items, our fourth quarter adjusted EBITDA would have been $221 million.

Relative to adjusted EBTIDA, the smaller year over year declines in economic net income of 29% and economics earnings per share of 25% reflected lower taxes from US tax reform, a one-time tax benefit from the liquidation of Ivory, as well as lower year over year share count due to repurchase activity in the case of economic earnings per share.

Turning to more specific modeling items for the fourth quarter, the ratio of adjusted EBITDA to average assets under management was 9.9 basis points. However, excluding the one-time expenses I previously mentioned, it would have been 11.4 basis points or 10.8 basis points excluding performance fees.

In the first quarter, we expect adjusted EBITDA to average assets under management to be in the range of 11.3 basis points to 11.7 basis points, reflecting a net performance fee range of $0.10 per share to $0.20 per share. Stepping back, on performance fee guidance for the full year 2019, we expect performance fee contribution to be in the range of $0.75 to $1.75 per share. This performance fee range incorporates product high water marks, actual performance through January, and a reasonable range around forward growth assumptions across all of our performance fee products.

As you know, we have seasonality in our performance fee opportunity with a large majority of performance fee contracts having calendar year-end crystallization, and very few contracts crystallizing in the second and third quarter.

Our share of interest expense was $18.1 million for the fourth quarter and in the first quarter, we expect our share of interest expense to remain at approximately $18 million. Our share of reported amortization and impairments was $288 million for the fourth quarter, including $261.9 million from affiliates accounted for under the equity method.

As you saw in the release, this included the $240 million non-cash charge I mentioned earlier. Looking ahead to the first quarter, we expect our share of reported amortization and impairments to be approximately $45 million.

Turning to taxes -- with regard to our tax rate in the fourth quarter, our effective GAAP and cash tax rates were impacted by one-time items. As a result, our GAAP tax rate was negative and our cash tax rate was 15.7%. For modeling purposes, we expect our GAAP and cash tax rates to be approximately 26% and 18% respectively. Intangible related deferred taxes were $49.6 million in the fourth quarter, which were elevated for the liquidation of Ivory and certain other non-cash items related to US tax reform.

For the first quarter, we expect intangible related deferred taxes to be approximately $11 million. Other economic items were -$500,000.00 for the fourth quarter, and for modeling purposes, we expect other economic items to be approximately $1 million per quarter. Our adjusted weighted average share count for the fourth quarter was 52.7 million and we expect it to be approximately 51.8 million for the first quarter.

Turning to our balance sheet -- on capital management broadly speaking, we have maintained a prudent level of leverage to be able to capitalize on growth opportunities even in challenging markets. In addition, we have continued to return capital to our shareholders within a framework of disciplined capital management.

During the fourth quarter in the midst of a volatile market, we paid a $0.30 per share dividend and repurchased $76 million in shares, while continuing to position our balance sheet, including extending the maturity of our evolver and term loan.

Looking ahead, as you saw in the release, we announced a first quarter dividend of $0.32 per share, which reflects a $0.07 increase, as well as a 3.3 million share increase to our repurchase authorization for a total of 5 million shares. The first half of 2019, we expect to repurchase between $100 million and $300 million in shares. However, the amount and timing will depend on the potential new investment and market conditions.

Before we take questions, I'd like to make one final point. Over the past five years, we have reduced our financial leverage as part of our disciplined approach to capital management. As you heard Nate say, AMG's unique revenue share structure is in place across the large majority of our affiliate group, limits our exposure to operating leverage, which in periods of heightened volatility enhances the stability of our earnings. This combination of prudent financial leverage and limited operating leverage gives us the flexibility to deploy capital and capitalize on our growth opportunities, including in periods of market dislocation.

Now, we will be happy to answer your questions.

Questions and Answers:


Thank you. At this time, we'll be conducting a question and answer session. If you'd like to ask a question, please press *1 on your telephone keypad. A confirmation tone will indicate your line is in the question queue. You may press *2 if you'd like to remove your question from the queue. For participants using speaker equipment, it may be necessary to pick up your handset before pressing the * key.

Our first question comes from the line of Bill Katz with Citigroup. Please proceed with your question.

Bill Katz -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Jay, congratulations on the promotion. Maybe we can start there. Given the promotion, I was wondering what, if any, change in strategy there might be or maybe just tick off the top two or three incremental things you're looking at as we think about 2019 and beyond.

Jay Horgen -- President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Bill. You know this and I think most everyone on the phone -- I've been at AMG for 12 years now. I've been involved in the strategic decisions across multiple aspects of our business for some time, including distribution. This new role is simply an evolution of my responsibilities. It's not a change or major change for our business.

I've been working closely with the head of our global distribution -- Hugh Cutler has been with us for a couple of years now on a number of projects. He's doing a nice job. He's got a great team. I look forward to helping him grow our business in this area. In addition to my new responsibilities in distribution, I will continue to be involved in all aspects of our business as a senior member of the team.

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

Maybe, Bill, I'll add something to that. We talked about this a couple calls ago, but we've got an excellent senior team with a really good balanced mix of people who have been with us for a long time like Jay, obviously, and also newer perspectives and people we've brought in across different functional areas.

You know, a lot of people have stepped up over this past year as we've had some transition. But it's clear we're better positioned than ever before in terms of the breadth and depth of the team we've got. Finally, I'd say this is a good environment to attract new talent as well. We've built a really strong senior management team. It's great to watch how that team continues to evolve as we execute against our strategy.


Thank you. We would like to request you limit yourself to one question and invite you to join the queue. Our next question comes from the line of Robert Lee with KBW. Please proceed with your question.

Robert Lee -- KBW -- Managing Director

Thanks. You touched on capital management. I'm just curious. How do you think of your deal capacity right now. Within that, I understand you want to keep dry powder, but have you changed at all how you think about ultimate leverage you're willing to run at if you find the right transaction? I guess historically in the past, you've gone three times or more. Has that changed at all given the environment, that there's more a govern around the amount of leverage you'd add per transaction?

Jay Horgen -- President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Rob. Let me start here. I appreciate the way you asked the question. Taking a step back, our longer-term view on our balance sheet is to position it for strength, make sure that we are able to execute on our growth opportunities over a cycle. We have prudently managed our balance sheet over this time. I'd say look at the last five years, we've taken leverage down quite a bit. That's led to increase in ratings as just a reflection of that leverage coming down.

But during the same time, we've been committed to returning capital to shareholders and we've returned $1 billion since the beginning of 2017. As far as capacity, let me walk you through that. We did just extend our evolve our new five-year revolver in January, extended our term loan as well. So, we are well-positioned today with leverage in a good place and also enough capacity on a revolver, nearly $1 billion on a revolver to execute on our new investment pipeline.

I think when you look at the capital model over time, continuing to limit leverage that we think we can do that while also returning capital to shareholders and we have repurchased shares in each of the last eight quarters, with 76 million being repurchased in this past quarter. Maybe I'll just address that a bit further. We met pretty volatile markets in December. So, we did a bit less than we had initially expected to do in the fourth quarter, really because of the extreme volatility in the last two to three weeks of the year.

And then looking ahead, this year, we expect to continue to repurchase. We mentioned in the prepared remarks, $100 million to $300 million in the first half of the year. As we also saw, we increased our dividend. We increased our share authorization so that we could repurchase additional shares throughout the year. We have ample capacity under that authorization.

So, taken together, we do think we're going to continue to reduce leverage, continue to repurchase shares. The most important use of our capital is new investment. We think that continued tremendous opportunity for us over the long-term, especially in periods of volatility because after those periods, that tends to be times when executing on new investments is most attractive to shareholders.

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. The only thing I would add to that is I think the question ultimately becomes, especially if you're going to do something larger, the question becomes when do you have that highest degree of confidence in the opportunities ahead of you. I think as Jay said, we're positioning ourselves to be able to take advantage to deploy capital.


Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Michael Carrier with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Please proceed with your question.

Shawn -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Hey, guys. This is actually Shawn on for Mike. Thanks for taking my question. Given the more challenging industry trends and the increasing need for scale, do you see opportunities to centralize more affiliate calls to create some synergy and scale benefits?

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

Let me start with that. We talked about on prior calls, there are parts of asset management where sales are definitely advantaged and parts of it where it's not. I think this is where it's important to understand the unique business model that AMG has, which is we are able to manage a diverse set of distinctive return streams at effectively enormous scale in this affiliate model that we have.

The place where we have been investing, the place where we have been working with our affiliates is how can you effectively bring that significant scale of diverse, distinct return streams to bear, which plays into some macro trends as well. We talked in our prepared remarks about the consolidation of buyer behavior and centralization. So, those are places we've been investing. Some of that is what we've been doing with global distribution.

Some of it is things like -- we announced, I think, the Nordea relationship today -- some of it is our ability to continue to do things like that, which is through a single point of contact make it very efficient for large buyers or large intermediaries to understand all of the return streams our affiliates have and then make it really easy for them to get access the streams they want, which could be a product or could be something new, but get access to the things they want and then get them into their client portfolios in a way that is both better in terms of faster, getting the return streams faster and into the client portfolio.

But also, ultimately done in a way that's a higher margin for us and for them as we make it really efficient for them to both understand the return streams and understand the evolution as well. Then the final thing I'll say is there's a really good virtuous circle to this, which is we learn a lot from these relationships as we've been going through them, which informs not just our product development, but also informs our new investment activity as well. Those are places we're investing. We think there's a tremendous opportunity and we're really just at the early stages of that.


Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Chris Shutler with William Blair. Please proceed with your question.

Chris Shutler -- William Blair -- Analyst

Hey, guys. Good morning. One new investments, I know you've missed out on some deals because of just being prudent around valuation. Given the scarcity of strong growing asset management firms, I'm curious to know how you are thinking about valuation in this environment. More broadly, why are you convinced this business model is still the right one and are you contemplating any kind of changes or moves into adjacencies?

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

Let me start. First, we think there remains a very significant opportunity with the fundamental approach we have, which is how do you partner with these outstanding manufacturing businesses? That opportunity is, we think, still there. We also think there's an opportunity to be a much better partner to these firms. This goes to some of the kinds of things I was talking about in the prior question, which is we think we've been building capabilities, which make us a better partner to those kinds of firms. So, we think that opportunity is really significant.

You're right. We've been disciplined, but it's not just around pricing. We've been disciplined around a lot of different dimensions. We've been disciplined about the quality of the organizations. I think we talked about in an earlier call about what we mean by high-quality firms and what are the kinds of firms we think are going to succeed in this environment. We've been disciplined about quality.

We've been disciplined about alignment, making sure that we really get the long-term alignment in a way that can ultimately be multi-generational with the management team, which we think is important for our model, which has a permanent component we talked about. So, we've been disciplined about the quality of the firms, about the alignment we get with them. Absolutely, we've been disciplined about pricing.

But I'll say that's really just been an issue in a subset of the opportunities set in front of us. It is an issue in that subset, but it's really just an issue in a subset of the opportunity in front of us. We continue to look at ways we can extend what we do. We think there's such a big opportunity just in collecting these affiliates that have these fantastic returns, selecting those as part of AMG on our platform and then helping them go into client portfolios more effectively, we think that opportunity is a really significant and differentiated opportunity. We don't think there is anybody else out there able to prosecute that same opportunity.


Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Alex Blostein with Goldman Sachs. Please proceed with your question.

Alexander Blostein -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thanks. As we're thinking about the baseline management fee EPS for you guys, obviously there are a lot of moving pieces given the painful end of the year and nice rebound here, but it also sounds like you guys are making various corporate investments. I heard you were kind of 10 to 20-something performance fees but maybe help us with the baseline management fee run rate.

Jay Horgen -- President and Chief Financial Officer

So, Alex, Jay. I'll make a couple of comments here. The first, just to put the framing out there. We give guidance in a number of areas. First, this is helping you estimate the run rate AUM and EBITDA. Second is just the framework for modeling future growth. The third is performance fees.

On the first run rate AUM and EBITDA, which is directly to your question, we started the year with $736 billion in AUM. Our January markets are up and we've had good flows as well in the retail channel, a reversal from the fourth quarter. So, when you take that together, our market blend is up 4%, maybe a little over at this point. So, that gives you a sense for where AUM is. Then as I mentioned in my prepared remarks, we're in a range. Take the midpoint of that range, 11.5 of EBTIDA to average AUM and you can get close to what we think is a reasonable EBITDA run rate for the first quarter.

Another way to look at it is we gave you what our EBITDA would have been before one-time items in the fourth quarter of Q21. We're off a little bit because the carryover of the fourth quarter being offset by the market and slows in the first quarter so far. We're down a couple of percent, so think 215-ish on a run rate basis. That's another way to get to the same number. Obviously, we go through all the other items to help you translate EBITDA down to EPS and the guidance.

As it relates to the framework for modeling future growth, I think we see consensus in the street developing a good framework to track that. As you know, here, we've historically guided people 2% per quarter, but that's really up to you. I think most everyone knows how to track that. Then on the third item, we talked about performance fees, giving you guidance that in the first quarter, in that range of EBITDA to average AUM, we do expect $0.10 to $0.20.

So, at that 11/5 call, a midpoint of $0.15 for the first quarter, second and third quarter, we typically don't have a lot of contracts to crystallize. So, a step down in those quarters. So, for the full year, as you heard me say, we expect a range of $0.75 to $1.75. I'll just comment that again, given the uplift in markets, new calendar year, we've really improved on our high watermark from last year's performance. So, we feel pretty good about that performance fee opportunity.


Our next question comes from the line of Brian Bedell with Deutsche Bank. Please proceed with your question.

Brian Bedell -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Thanks very much. Jay or Nate, if you could go a little bit deeper into some of the alternative outflows in the fourth quarter. I think you mentioned the delayed funding pipelines, if those are actually turning around now in 1Q. Then just on the one-time in the fourth quarter, if you could parse out the Mass General versus the other one-time item that you guys took for AMG expenses. As you think about expenses going forward on the global distribution effort, does it make sense to invest more in that, given you think you can leverage the good performance across a lot of your strategies going forward?

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

I'll start. We'll try to do that one question in reverse order. Let me start with the spending point. We talked about this a little in our prepared remarks and how we invest in the business. If you look back, we were pretty decisive in the fourth quarter in terms of -- we talked about this on earlier calls. We've been looking at this for the last couple quarters, which is how do we make sure we're allocating our resources to the right things.

So, we've reduced spend and we've clearly reduced resources allocated to product packages, all those kinds of things, some by us, some by affiliates. At the same time, we've been investing and increasing spend on the product development side. This volatility creates opportunity to build out, accelerate product development. Then as you said, a place we have been investing, both people and operational build, is how do we make sure we get these return streams into the appropriate client portfolios.

Some of that is specifically what we would have referred to as global distribution. I think we talked about last quarter, for example, opening Japan, where we think there's a very large opportunity, very early innings, and we continue to see good traction. Some of our affiliates, Pantheon, AQR have already opened up alongside that.

Some of it is also building against what I'll call kind of channel partnerships or strategic relationships and some of the more complicated mandates we've talked about on earlier calls is building those resources so that we can get affiliate return streams efficiently into people's portfolio. We're absolutely doing that on that part of the question.

Jay Horgen -- President and Chief Financial Officer

I just wanted to add on the expenses. As you know, a large majority of our affiliates are under revenue share. But where we do have exposure to expenses at AMG and certain equity method affiliates, we and they had reduced expenses pretty decisively in the fourth quarter, gave rise to about $10 million of one-time item sin the fourth quarter. We will experience that savings in '19. If we look at where we're exposed to expenses, again, at AMG and at certain of our affiliates, we're going to take expenses down 2% to 3% year over year. That's already in place.

The other one-time expenses, just to keep on that theme, obviously, MGH -- the total of MGH and those one-time expense management actions has brought our EBITDA from 191 to 221. We had a couple of other one-time items, of course the tax benefits and recovery from Ivory as well as the revaluation of Systematica. Those were the four one-time items in the quarter if you're tracking that. They all go through different financial statement line items. So, I'm happy to follow-up with you if you'd like on that. I think that's on expenses.

On alternative flows -- that was us tracking back in reverse order through your question -- the bridge flows for a moment -- you did hear me say in the prepared remarks that we did see some pretty significant seasonality which was exacerbated by the December volatility.

When we took a look at the data -- we do have pretty good visibility into the institutional book as well as retail seasonality. So, the institutional, the expiration, the multi-year locks and single-year locks, and we had about $3 billion to $4 billion of seasonality there with another $4 billion to $5 billion in retail, that gets you to that $7 billion to $9 billion number that I mentioned on the call.

The other factor, which is a little harder to assess, but I think there's a real number of the risk aversion, which was causing lower sales given the extreme markets impacted our flows in that $1 billion to $2 billion number, that level. So, when you take all that away, there was still some softness in our flows and that really was alternatives in retail liquid alternatives.

Seasonality and risk aversion exacerbated -- when we look more broadly over the course of the year, we look at first quarter and say in retail, we've got positive flows for January, improving performance in US equities, a solid illiquid capital raising activity, the trends for us remain intact, volatility is good for active management, and we do, broadly speaking, have a lot of good performing product across the diverse business we have.

When you add on to it ample capacity, new products starting to gain traction, like the Systematic fixed income business Nate mentioned, together with our distribution efforts, our evolving partnership with Nordea, we do think we'll be able to take these distinctive products into new channels, new regions, new partnerships. Pulling all that together, our long-term growth outlook for this year, we do expect to return by the end of 2019 to something like 2% organic growth.

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

The only thing I would add to that is there are a couple of underlying dynamics and Jay touched on one, which is this balance between the development of products that we believe is distinctive and has good opportunity with the evolution of the book -- there's a roll-off in the book of product that we think is more commoditized or susceptible to being commoditized. You did see that over a period of time in some of our US equities in the institutional space, as an example. Some of it is that evolution. If you look at the mix of our products, we're feeling good about the distinctive nature of an increasing percentage of those products.

The other dynamic I'll mention is the pullback in the fourth quarter and some of the volatility combined, we have a number of products that are fantastic products with a very strong long-term track record that have been closed and are reopening and making progress where they're starting to sort out how they're going to put some of the capacity from the fact they've been closed, but also from the standpoint with all this volatility, they're seeing real opportunities. Those are dynamics that I've put together. These are longer-term trends. Those extend beyond this year.


Our next question comes from the line of Dan Fannon with Jefferies.

Dan Fannon -- Jefferies -- Managing Director

I first want to clarify -- positive flows in January versus, I think, breakeven, just clarify that on the retail or maybe that was all in. In terms of institutional activity, just curious as we see the retail data, is retail within the liquid alternatives acting different than the institutional client base or are you seeing broadly institutional demand changing for some of the alternative strategies, particularly at AQR.

Jay Horgen -- President and Chief Financial Officer

I'll clarify. We did see about $100 million positive in the publicly visible. Clearly, that was a significant reversal from December. I think Nate will pick up on the alternative point here and how it's acting in institutional. When you look at the retail flows, publicly visible this quarter. That's not all of retail, Dan. We do have some advisory and some non-reporting retail that's harder for us to see given that it's early February.

But just commenting on what trends we're seeing in the public that are visible, clearly the value managers, both the US and global, have seen a pretty strong reversal in both investment performance and flows. We've had good flows in US equities.

One of the themes emerging is where we've had pretty significant outflows for a significant number of years here in US equities, we've seen really good things in the decreasing of outflows, names like Yacktman, Frontier, River Road have top quartile performance over the long-term and we've seen our US equity kind of three-year numbers in aggregate for the first time go above 50%. That's probably three or four years since that happened. We're very positive about that.

On global equities, we have also seen really good performance, especially if the global and international mandates as well as the regional products, we've been plagued a little bit by EM performance. It's been a tough go for active in EM, still have great affiliates positioned well in EM and some of those affiliates are opening products back up. When you look into the data, you're seeing international really being driven by that outstanding performance. Those themes really are emerging here in 2019 and as it relates to liquid alternatives and institutional.

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

I think 2018 was an extraordinary year in terms of the breadth of the negative returns across asset classes. It was sort of historic. That was an extraordinary year. They underlying theses around why people are trying to get these alternative return streams into their portfolios, they all remain intact. I think you even see -- we talked about this in our prepared remarks, even with that extraordinary breadth of negative returns across asset classes, it really did serve a diversifying effect.

We look at the decision making in the institutional channel around alternatives and we continue to see very strong sales activity across a wide range of products, both liquid and illiquid, but certainly in liquid. It's not a challenge of that pipeline and sales and opportunities to develop new products and all the rest. So, that all remains intact.

I will say there's one other point, which is in the retail channel -- part of what happened was really just the combination of the performance plus the seasonality as people went through, whether it was selling ahead of distributions. That was part of what we experienced as well. Even in the institutional channel, there was seasonality in institution. We think the underlying trends are intact. We think there's good activity pipeline. It's not acting the same as retail. We think those underlying the trends will continue. All that said, it's ultimately the return streams have to be distinctive and perform.

Jay Horgen -- President and Chief Financial Officer

One last thing -- I didn't want to leave these underlying trends without also mentioning the PE fundraising and illiquid. We had a solid quarter, a solid year. We look forward and we see continued growth in illiquid, both the new products and partnerships with large pools of capital. You see this as an enduring growth opportunity for us as kind of the other major trend this year.

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

And a place where there's really good product development going on.


Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Robert Lee with KBW. Please proceed with your question.

Robert Lee -- KBW -- Managing Director

Thanks for taking my follow-up. If we think of the flows from the quarter, kind of characterize that in terms of its EBITDA impact. If organically, it was maybe just on the asset basis, just under 2%, would the EBITDA impact be kind of similar or is there some mix issue that would make it greater or lower? If we think, Jay, kind of thinking that can get back to the 2% organic growth by the end of '19, given how you're looking at the mix going forward from what you can see, would that be indicative of the EBITDA contribution?

Jay Horgen -- President and Chief Financial Officer

Let's take the EBITDA contribution first. The asset-weighted EBITDA contribution is a little hard to see in the underlying data because performance fees had such an impact on our results in the fourth quarter. One of the things you can see, as I mentioned, if you kind of track EBITDA from third to fourth to first quarter, I mentioned the 221 for one-time items in the fourth quarter going to something that looks like 215, that's just a couple of percent down.

The way you can also see that's tracking that was consistent with your inference, that's tracking to when you look at average -- EBITDA to average AUM, it's actually going up. What that suggests it the assets that were lost had an average weighting that was consistent with our overall business and the mix shift for us is actually going back the other way after several quarters rather than going the reverse direction. So, I would say that I think that's partly because of where we're growing and it's also partly based upon the ownership mix of our business.


Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our time for questions. I'll turn the floor back to Mr. Dalton for any final comments.

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

Thank you all again for joining us this morning. As you heard, we are confident in our prospects for significant long-term growth. We've built a diverse business, which includes some of the highest quality boutique firms in the industry with established long-term track records of outperformance across a wide range of investment strategies. As Jay said, all this is within a business model that has low operating leverage and a flexible capital structure that positions us to execute on our business strategy and create long-term value for shareholders. We look forward to speaking with you next quarter.


Thank you. This concludes today's teleconference. You may disconnect your lines at this time. Thank you for your participation.

Duration: 60 minutes

Call participants:

Jeffrey Parker -- Vice President of Investor Relations

Nathaniel Dalton -- Chief Executive Officer

Jay Horgen -- President and Chief Financial Officer

Bill Katz -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Robert Lee -- KBW -- Managing Director

Shawn -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Chris Shutler -- William Blair -- Analyst

Alexander Blostein -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Brian Bedell -- Deutsche Bank -- Analyst

Dan Fannon -- Jefferies -- Managing Director

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