(Recasts with comments from earnings call, adds share reaction)
By Joshua Franklin
NEW YORK, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Lazard Ltd said on Thursday it had axed about 200 employees after a review of its business, as the investment bank reported a 21% drop in third-quarter adjusted net income amid a slowdown in worldwide deal activity.
Lazard's business is split between financial advisory and asset management services. Along with others in the industry it has suffered from a downturn in global merger and acquisition activity, which fell 10% in the first nine months from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv data.
"The macroeconomic, geopolitical environment obviously is pretty complex right now and there has been a lot of volatility in markets. But I think where we came out in the quarter is ok and our momentum going into the future feels pretty good right now" Lazard Chairman and Chief Executive Kenneth Jacobs said in an interview.
Lazard posted net income of $88 million. That was short of the $111 million in the same period last year but beat analyst expectations for $82.2 million, Refinitiv data showed.
The stock was down around 3.4% in early New York trading.
The bank also said it had axed about 200 employees after a review of its business across financial advisory, asset management and corporate functions. At the end of 2018, Lazard had around 3,000 employees.
"A lot of it is really just putting our chip on the areas that we wanted to continue to focus on so we continue to hire. This is just creating room, creating flexibility to continue investing for that growth," Chief Financial Officer Evan Russo said on a call with investors.
Jacobs said the bank wants to expand further into North America and non-M&A advisory.
Revenue from Lazard's financial advisory business, its biggest source of earnings, was roughly flat in the three months through September compared with a year earlier, but was down 13% for the first nine months of 2019.
Fellow investment banking advisory firm Evercore last week also reported a fall in quarterly profit.
Lazard said average assets under management for the quarter were $234 billion, down from $237 billion in the prior quarter.
The bank's shares are up around 4% so far in 2019, lagging an advance of about 21% in the benchmark S&P 500 index. (Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York Editing by Bernadette Baum, Elaine Hardcastle and Paul Simao)