During the Fourth Quarter, we initiated a position in Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), which we believe is in the early innings of a turnaround. The bank’s investment banking advisory and equity sales and trading businesses – which we know well from our perspectives as both investors and long-time satisfied clients – have consistently won top three market shares and are impressively positioned. Although MS has historically failed to capitalize on its strengths, its leadership currently is focused on growing its good businesses while consolidating and successfully fixing its previously troubled Wealth Management business.In 2013, we expect Morgan Stanley to tackle its other weak business, Fixed Income, Currency, and Commodities (FICC) sales and trading. Morgan Stanley’s stock currently trades at a 20% discount to tangible book (down from a 35% discount when we acquired our stake at an average cost of $16.77 per share), and we view MS at these prices as a chance to buy a free call option on a promising restructuring.
In Wealth Management, Morgan Stanley has approached the turnaround with focus and results have been encouraging. The underlying earnings power of the combined MorganStanley Smith Barney business can be seen in the pre-tax margin line: pre-tax margins in Wealth Management have risen from 6% in 2009 to 13% in Q3 2012, and look on track to meet or exceed management’s mid-teens target for 2013. Morgan Stanley has a tougherroad ahead in dealing with its FICC businesses, which are limping along with a still-bloatedcost structure and anemic returns due to regulatory changes stemming from the GlobalFinancial Crisis. Nearly two thirds of the company’s Risk Weighted Assets on a fully loadedBasel IIIfourth quarter commentary.