A bit of good news Thursday from Lehman Brothers, which said it had beat analysts' earning expectations for the quarter ended November 30. While fourth-quarter net income fell 12 percent to $886 million, or $1.54 a share, from $1 billion, or $1.72, a year earlier, Bloomberg reported that analysts had been expecting $1.44 a share. Nonetheless, the results are the first time in Lehman's history that the investment bank has reported two consecutive quarters of profit declines. Fixed-income trading revenue fell 60 percent to $860 million, with Lehman citing "very challenging markets," but the loss of revenue was more than offset by gains in equity trading, which saw revenues more than double to a record level of $1.9 billion. In spite of the results, there is still some uneasiness on the part of analysts, according to Bloomberg:
"They're not as tied to fixed income as they used to be," said Tom Jalics, an analyst at National City Bank in Cleveland who helps manage $34 billion, including Lehman shares. "But there's a lot of skepticism about the numbers. People are concerned about possible skeletons in the closet."
Jalics is referring to a large jump in so-called Level 3 assets at Lehman during the third quarter, which increased 57 percent to $34.7 billion. Level 3 assets are considered "hard to value" and include securities such as CDOs, which have been the subject of significant write-downs as of late.