Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
What: Shares of capital markets specialist GFI Group
So what: There wasn't a whole heck of a lot for investors to get excited about in GFI's fourth quarter. Total revenue was up roughly 5% for the quarter, but the bottom line slipped into the red, delivering a $0.19-per-share loss on a GAAP basis and a $0.06 loss on an adjusted basis. That might have been better digested by investors if analysts had been projecting a loss for the quarter, but they had actually been looking for a per-share profit of $0.06.
Now what: It clearly wasn't a strong fourth quarter for GFI, and management blamed that on a variety of factors, including higher debt costs, investments in people and technology, and lower trading activity. Will 2012 bring better news for investors? The company seems cautiously optimistic: It highlighted cost-saving measures that it's taken as well as the strong growth in its analytics and data segments. It also pointed out that through mid-February, revenue is up 5% to 6% versus last year.
Thanks to technological advancements and the fallout from the financial meltdown, capital markets businesses like GFI have been under pressure and the company's fourth-quarter results reflect this. I don't know that there's a quick fix in the offing for the business, but it's notable that the company has historically been a good cash-flow generator and directs some of that cash to shareholders through a 4.4% dividend. While that alone doesn't make this a good investment, it could be a good reason for yield-seekers to take a closer look.
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