T. Rowe Price Chairman George A. Roche said at his company’s annual meeting yesterday that first quarter earnings would fall significantly below the 41 cents per share earned in the first quarter of 2002. The results, which are scheduled to be released April 25, could be 30% lower, Roche said.

Decline in domestic and foreign equity markets had the biggest impact on results, pushing investment advisory fees down 10% from year-ago levels, Roche said. T. Rowe managed $140 billion at the end of March, down 12% from $159.8 billion a year earlier, according to the firm.

"Although the current environment is a concern for the company, the firm’s relatively strong investment results and positive cash flows into its mutual funds and managed accounts make this an opportune time to invest for future growth," Roche said in a statement released ahead of the meeting.

T. Rowe’s expenses rose modestly in the first quarter, as the firm "took advantage of the opportunity to invest in future growth," including paying down $11 million in long-term debt and repurchasing 787,000 shares of common stock at the cost of $20 million, according to the company.

T. Rowe Price expects the board of directors to authorize the repurchase of an additional five million shares.

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