Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Goldman heyday

What are we to make of Goldman’s Q1 results…? Making $3 b in as many months is indeed recession defying but how much of it is its own making in contrast to the near absence of competition – Citigroup, UBS, Lehmann and its ilk? The Economist says - To the survivor the spoils - and I can’t agree more.

Monday, after market close, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. reported 1Q09 earnings of $1.66 billion or $3.39 a share, up from $1.51 billion, or $3.23 a share a year earlier. The results were way ahead of consensus estimates of a profit of $1.64 per share.

Higher-than-expected profit was mainly due to strong trading revenue. Of the first quarter net revenues of $9.4 billion, $6.6 billion (34% higher than its previous record) was the contribution from the company’s fixed-income, currency and commodities (FICC) group. High volatility (benefiting the Treasury markets and the Dollar), wide spreads in fixed income and reduced competition in the markets were the main reasons for strong earnings.

However, the areas outside fixed income and currency businesses showed weakness during the quarter. Investment banking revenues were down 30% year-over-year, due to the low activity in the capital markets. Asset management revenues also declined 28% to $949 million.

Again as the Economist says this windfall will likely dwindle soon. The firm may be scooping up market share at quite a clip. But the bigger picture is still far from pretty. Goldman and other survivors will benefit from the coming wave of debt issuance by federal, state and local governments. But dealer spreads are sure to shrink as markets normalise and those that have retreated return to the fray. This is likely to be offset only partially by a pick-up in businesses tied more closely to economic growth, such as advising on mergers and acquisitions.

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