Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon. Picture: SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon. Picture: SIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG

Goldman Sachs Group’s investment bankers stitched together deals at a rollicking pace in the second quarter, softening the blow of a post-pandemic trading slowdown and helping earnings beat analysts’ expectations.

The 83% gain from advising on M&A helped Goldman’s investment-banking group post a 36% revenue increase last quarter, more than analysts had projected. That helped counter the big drop-off in trading activity from the frenzied pace a year earlier, as Covid-19 spread globally.

“Our second quarter performance and record revenues for the first half of the year demonstrate the strength of our client franchise and our continued progress on our strategic priorities,” CEO  David Solomon said in a statement Tuesday.

The revenue surge at Wall Street’s leading mergers-advisory franchise came as corporations and buyout giants were on the prowl for deals in a recovering economy. Cheap financing for buyers and attractive valuations for sellers pushed global deals in the first half of the year to a record $2.5-trillion, with the trend poised to continue.

The frenetic deal making pace has set off a ferocious battle for talent, with junior bankers being wooed with pay bumps at many firms to prevent defections and burnouts. Goldman has shown reluctance to participate in that frenzy, despite its own bankers setting off the debate on overworked staff. That demurral has fast become fodder for ridicule among popular finance meme-sters.

Shares of Goldman Sachs fell 0.7% to $377.75 at 9.34am in New York and have climbed 43% in 2021. The bank is boosting its quarterly payout 60% to $2 a share, effective on October 1, according to a statement in June, after the bank cleared its latest stress test.

Record backlog

Investment-banking revenue of $3.61bn surpassed the average estimate of $2.92bn. The second-quarter figure includes $159m from corporate lending. The bank said in a statement on Tuesday that its backlog, a closely watched indicator of revenues from M&A work yet to be completed, ended the quarter at a record level.

Solomon, who has been on the front line of the push to bring employees back into the offices, was among the first to mandate a return-to-office plan for all staff as early as June, well ahead of peers.

Stephan Feldgoise, Goldman’s co-head of the M&A business, said in a recent interview that the return to office isn’t easy, but makes a difference and shows up in the bank’s gain in market share.

Trading revenue is expected to decline across Wall Street, unable to match the manic pace of the coronavirus-induced market gyrations of early 2020. Goldman’s desk recorded $4.9bn, down from the $7.18bn recorded in 2020. The slowdown was driven by the fixed-income business, which posted a 45% drop.

Goldman’s asset-management business, which also includes its growing alternatives-investing platform, turned in revenue of $5.13bn, more than double from a year earlier.

The higher-than-forecast asset-management revenue, driven by equity investments, was “not all that surprising considering the strength of the realisation environment and Goldman’s determination to work towards a net reduction in direct investments,” Credit Suisse analyst Susan Katzke wrote in a note to clients.

Equity portfolio

The bank has been trying to reduce investments of its own and lean more on fees from picking winnings bets for clients. Despite that, its equity investments climbed to $21bn from about $20bn at the end of the year. That was driven by higher markups on its portfolio even as it shed about $5.5bn of holdings.

Revenue from Goldman’s consumer business rose 41% from a year earlier. The bank also had a net benefit from its provision for credit losses, much like its larger rival JPMorgan Chase, but at a much smaller scale. The reserve reductions were seen in wholesale and consumer loans because of the continued economic recovery. Some of that was countered by provisions tied to expanding credit-card balances.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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