Goldman feels $260m Uber and Avantor burn
Uber has lost a third of its market value after a poor public-market debut, while Avantor lost 23% in the same period; Goldman had invested in both
New York — Goldman Sachs’s bets on four companies delighted investors a quarter ago. This time around, they’re inflicting about $260m worth of pain.
Those losses are driven by investments made for its own account in Uber Technologies and Avantor, which both slumped in the third quarter. The ride-hailing company has seen a third of its market value erased after a woeful public-market debut, while Avantor lost 23% in the same period. That led to hits of more than $100m each for Goldman.
Goldman was barred from selling its holdings in the companies immediately after they went public, as is typical for private investors. The size of the positions was derived from filings and company disclosures. A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs declined to comment.
Gains from investments with its own money are sometimes Goldman Sachs’s biggest profit driver, and executives have argued they showcase a core skill of the firm that should be valued by shareholders. But some analysts and investors have pointed to quarterly volatility in its investing and lending (I&L) division as a reason to discount those profits. The swings in these marquee holdings may add to that perception.
“The ‘I’ in the I&L can still be chunky and difficult to forecast,” said Mike Mayo, a senior bank analyst at Wells Fargo. “It’s certainly a headwind in the quarter.”
Mayo recently lowered his estimates and is now forecasting a 30% drop in I&L revenue from the second quarter. Goldman Sachs is unique among banks in the scale of its principal investments, with a $22bn equity portfolio. Executives have said they plan to move their merchant banking units more towards managing client money and away from making bets with the firm’s money.
The investment bank credited Uber and Avantor, along with Tradeweb Markets and online recruiter HeadHunter Group, with lifting results in the second quarter. The firm said its positions in companies that went public in the second quarter generated about $500m in gains. That was mostly driven by a special one-time gain from Tradeweb.
Tradeweb also declined 16% in the period, but that loss was mitigated by a similar advance in HeadHunter.
Riding big, early gains
The four holdings made up 55% of the company’s $2.6bn public investment portfolio as of June 30, CFO Stephen Scherr said in July. Banks sometimes discount a holding’s value if the stake is large or would prove difficult to quickly divest.
Goldman got in early on Uber, investing when the venture was just starting to expand. That allowed the bank to ride big gains as the company’s valuation exploded in recent years. It holds roughly 10-million shares of Uber.
Avantor, a chemical maker for the life-sciences industry, has also been a big money spinner for Goldman. The bank and its client scored more than $400m in proceeds from Avantor’s initial public offering (IPO) in the second quarter, as well as merger advisory work before that.
Goldman isn’t alone in facing pain from investments in newer companies after years of gains. Jefferies Financial Group’s third-quarter earnings took a hit from WeWork’s dropping valuation as the investment bank had to mark down its stake.