Goldman Dealmakers Shine in Solomon’s Maiden Quarter

January 17, 2019 Updated: January 17, 2019

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. turned in a better-than-expected profit during David Solomon’s first quarter at the helm, helped by dealmakers in the division the new chief executive once oversaw.

A 56 percent jump in M&A fees as well as higher equities trading revenue during a volatile quarter for stocks helped offset another decline in bond trading, a business whose structural issues have forced Goldman to rethink its overall business model.

Shares of the fifth-largest U.S. bank surged more than 8 percent in midday trading on Jan. 16.

Using a plan Solomon co-developed in 2017, Goldman Sachs is trying to generate $5 billion in additional annual revenue by growing its consumer operation, wooing new institutional customers and convincing existing clients to do more business with the bank.

“We will not be complacent waiting for the market to return,” Solomon said on a conference call with analysts, referring to bond trading.

The comments broke with a precedent set by previous CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who did not publicly speak to analysts each quarter.

Solomon also addressed Goldman’s involvement in the Malaysian 1MDB scandal, apologizing for a former employee’s role while defending the broader bank’s innocence.

Goldman reported a profit of $2.3 billion, or $6.04 per share, in the fourth quarter. That compared with a loss of $2.1 billion, or $5.51 per share, in the year-ago period when the bank took a big one-time hit from the U.S. tax code overhaul.

Analysts had expected a profit of $4.45 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Analysts said the bank handily beat consensus expectations when taking into account one-time items.

Goldman’s total revenue was $8.1 billion, above analysts’ average estimate of $7.6 billion. The biggest line-item gain was the $1.2 billion of M&A advisory fees Goldman reported.

The bank’s $1.6 billion of quarterly equities trading revenue was up 17 percent, with bond trading revenue dropping 18 percent to $822 billion. Goldman took in more than $6 billion in quarterly bond-trading revenue at the business’s peak.

Goldman tends to be more sensitive to market fluctuations than peers that have large, stable revenue streams from other businesses.

Even so, Wall Street banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc,  and Bank of America Corp. reported similar trends this week, with their bond trading down 15 percent to 21 percent. The industry also reported declines in stock and bond underwriting revenue, which was expected. consumer bank, expanding further into wealth management and building a corporate cash management business.

Growing deposits from consumers and businesses will also help Goldman lessen its cost of funding. The bank has so far gathered $35 billion in deposits from its Marcus consumer business, including $7 billion from its recent expansion into the United Kingdom, Chief Financial Officer Stephen Scherr said on the call.

Despite its efforts, Goldman’s shares have been underperforming peers due to worries about its possible exposure to 1MDB-related costs.

“The 1MDB situation is like the real hold up for people right now,” said Evercore ISI analyst Glenn Schorr.

The bank added $844 million to its legal and regulatory provisions last year, more than four times what it set aside in 2017, though it did not specify the purpose.

Goldman’s stock has fallen 30 percent over the last 12 months, and is trading at a discount to its tangible book value.

By Elizabeth Dilts & Aparajita Saxena

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