Interactive Brokers Group, Inc. (IBKR)

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Interactive Brokers Group (IBKR)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

January 20, 2011 04:30 pm ET


Thomas Peterffy - Chairman, CEO, President
Paul Brody - CFO, Treasurer, Secretary, Director
Deborah Liston - Director of Investor Relations


Niamh Alexander – KBW
Rich Repetto - Sandler O'Neil
Robert Niewijk - Katana Capital
Mac Sykes - Gabelli & Co.
Edward Ditmire - Macquarie



Good day, everyone, and welcome to the Interactive Brokers fourth quarter 2010 earnings results conference call. (Operator Instructions). At this time, for opening remarks and introductions, we would like to turn the call over to Ms. Deborah Liston, Director of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Deborah Liston

Thank you. Welcome, everyone, and thank you for joining us this evening to review our results of the fourth quarter of 2010, which we just released after the close of trading. Joining me today on the call are Thomas Peterffy, our Chairman and CEO, and Paul Brody, Group CFO.

This conference call is also being broadcast on the Internet and available through the Investor Relation section of our website at www.interactivebrokers.com. An archive of the call will be available for 90 days through the same link.

Before we begin, I'd like to remind you that during the course of this call we will discuss some non-GAAP measures in talking about our company's performance. You can find a reconciliation of those measures to the nearest comparable GAAP measures in our press release.

In addition, management may make forward-looking comments based on our current expectations and assumptions, which involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results may differ materially from those indicated in these forward-looking statement due to certain risk factors that are described in our filings and made with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

I also encourage you to review the forward-looking disclaimers in our press release. With that, let me turn the call over to Thomas.

Thomas Peterffy

Good afternoon, everyone. As you see from the text of our release, the past quarter's and year's performance is clouded by accounting conventions. I'm going to attempt to clear this up for you in as simple a manner as possible. Our CFO will give you the more thorough version after I'm finished.

First, where do the losses come from? As you know, we paid $1 billion dividend about a month ago. The public company received its share of those dividends from accumulated retained earnings of Timber Hill in Europe, which is a Swiss company.

These earnings have not been previously taxed in the US and, therefore, we have to pay taxes on this dividend. The tax was deducted from the dividend that our shareholders received. Nevertheless, since the tax needs to be accounted for as an expense, we must report it as such and that drives our GAAP earnings into negative.

Second, as far as currency effects are concerned, our hedging strategy that translates our continuously changing currency exposure to a basket of currencies, that we call the GLOBAL has worked very well this year in spite of the turbulent currency markets.

The value of the GLOBAL in US dollars ended up unchanged for the fourth quarter and changed only slightly, decreasing by 0.3% for the year. Thus currency fluctuations had no net effect on our non-GAAP earnings as reported in dollars for the last quarter and that presented approximately $13 million loss for the year.

But as you know, we have many subsidiaries that around the world and they must account for their activities in the local currencies. We hedged these local currency balances to the GLOBAL and the hedging trades become part of our trading income.

On the other hand, the corresponding changes in the value of these balances have to be reported as other comprehensive income, or OCI. Due to this reporting requirement, $148 million shifted from GAAP earnings to OCI for the year and the corresponding number for the quarter was -- .

Paul Brody

$62 million.

Thomas Peterffy

-- $62 million. Adding the $148 million plus another $10 million related to the dividend of unvested employee shares, to the reported $341 million brings our earnings for the year to $499 million, which is worse but not by a great deal worse than 2009.

This would suggest that our business has declined moderately from 2009 to 2010 but the fact is that there are much more momentous changes that have occurred and continue to proceed underneath these numbers.

Namely, our market making business is suffering while our brokerage business is prospering. Overall for the entire company, our non-GAAP profit margin was 47% for 2010.

Our total equity capital, built solely on retained earnings, GAAP or non-GAAP, is $4.2 billion even after the $1 billion special dividends we paid out on December 21.

Now I will review each of our businesses starting with market making. Our non-GAAP market making profits for the year were $238 million with a profit margin of 45% but the fact is that in the last quarter we only made $38 million in market making. In other words, market making performance declined from the preceding year to the current year and it also declined throughout the year.

We achieved peak results in 2008 and since that time we have been witnessing a gradual decline in market making performance that is still going on. By now, 95% of listed option classes are trading in pennies. This, together with a surge in HFT activity, has continued to dampen our trading gains.

HFT competition does not only tighten bid offer spreads but also exposes us to the many different schemes they use to take advantage of our quotes when they are in a liquidity-taking mode. We expect some increased regulatory scrutiny over HFTs in the near future but do not believe that this will have much of an impact.

These changes include the stricter enforcement of new professional designation rules implemented in the early part of the past year by several option exchanges, the hedge fund registration requirements and new short-selling rules. In addition, the SEC recently wanted to ban naked access, which accounts for a significant amount of trading volume.

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