Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. The Trump Stock Market Trap May Be Triggered - Barry_M_Ferguson
2.Why are Central Banks Buying Gold and Dumping Dollars? - Richard_Mills
3.US China War - Thucydides Trap and gold - Richard_Mills
4.Gold Price Trend Forcast to End September 2019 - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Money Saving Kids Gardening Growing Giant Sunflowers Summer Fun - Anika_Walayat
6.US Dollar Breakdown Begins, Gold Price to Bolt Higher - Jim_Willie_CB
7.INTEL (INTC) Stock Investing to Profit From AI Machine Learning Boom - Nadeem_Walayat
8.Will Google AI Kill Us? Man vs Machine Intelligence - N_Walayat
9.US Prepares for Currency War with China - Richard_Mills
10.Gold Price Epochal Breakout Will Not Be Negated by a Correction - Clive Maund
Last 7 days
Gold Price Trend Validation - 22nd Aug 19
Economist Lays Out the Next Step to Wonderland for the Fed - 22nd Aug 19
GCSE Exam Results Day Shock! How to Get 9 A*'s Grade 9's in England and Maths - 22nd Aug 19
KEY WEEK FOR US MARKETS, GOLD, AND OIL - Audio Analysis - 22nd Aug 19
USD/JPY, USD/CHF, GBP/USD Currency Pairs to Watch Prior to FOMC Minutes and Jackson Hole - 22nd Aug 19
Fed Too Late To Prevent US Real Estate Market Crash? - 22nd Aug 19
Retail Sector Isn’t Dead. It’s Growing and Pays 6%+ Dividends - 22nd Aug 19
FREE Access EWI's Financial Market Forecasting Service - 22nd Aug 19
Benefits of Acrobits Softphone - 22nd Aug 19
How to Protect Your Site from Bots & Spam? - 21st Aug 19
Fed Too Late To Prevent A US Housing Market Crash? - 21st Aug 19
Gold and the Cracks in the U.S., Japan and Germany’s Economic Data - 21st Aug 19
The Gold Rush of 2019 - 21st Aug 19
How to Play Interest Rates in US Real Estate - 21st Aug 19
Stocks Likely to Breakout Instead of Gold - 21st Aug 19
Top 6 Tips to Attract Followers On SoundCloud - 21st Aug 19
Holiday Nightmares - Your Caravan is Missing! - 21st Aug 19
UK House Building and House Prices Trend Forecast - 20th Aug 19
The Next Stock Market Breakdown And The Setup - 20th Aug 19
5 Ways to Save by Using a Mortgage Broker - 20th Aug 19
Is This Time Different? Predictive Power of the Yield Curve and Gold - 19th Aug 19
New Dawn for the iGaming Industry in the United States - 19th Aug 19
Gold Set to Correct but Internals Remain Bullish - 19th Aug 19
Stock Market Correction Continues - 19th Aug 19
The Number One Gold Stock Of 2019 - 19th Aug 19
The State of the Financial Union - 18th Aug 19
The Nuts and Bolts: Yield Inversion Says Recession is Coming But it May take 24 months - 18th Aug 19
Markets August 19 Turn Date is Tomorrow – Are You Ready? - 18th Aug 19
JOHNSON AND JOHNSON - JNJ for Life Extension Pharma Stocks Investing - 17th Aug 19
Negative Bond Market Yields Tell A Story Of Shifting Economic Stock Market Leadership - 17th Aug 19
Is Stock Market About to Crash? Three Charts That Suggest It’s Possible - 17th Aug 19
It’s Time For Colombia To Dump The Peso - 17th Aug 19
Gold & Silver Stand Strong amid Stock Volatility & Falling Rates - 16th Aug 19
Gold Mining Stocks Q2’19 Fundamentals - 16th Aug 19
Silver, Transports, and Dow Jones Index At Targets – What Direct Next? - 16th Aug 19
When the US Bond Market Bubble Blows Up! - 16th Aug 19
Dark days are closing in on Apple - 16th Aug 19
Precious Metals Gone Wild! Reaching Initial Targets – Now What’s Next - 16th Aug 19
US Government Is Beholden To The Fed; And Vice-Versa - 15th Aug 19
GBP vs USD Forex Pair Swings Into Focus Amid Brexit Chaos - 15th Aug 19
US Negative Interest Rates Go Mainstream - With Some Glaring Omissions - 15th Aug 19
US Stock Market Could Fall 12% to 25% - 15th Aug 19
A Level Exam Results School Live Reaction Shock 2019! - 15th Aug 19
It's Time to Get Serious about Silver - 15th Aug 19
The EagleFX Beginners Guide – Financial Markets - 15th Aug 19

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The No 1 Gold Stock for 2019

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the Financial Sector’s Profit Powerhouse of the Future

Companies / Banking Stocks Jul 16, 2009 - 11:55 AM GMT

By: Money_Morning


Diamond Rated - Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleShah Gilani writes: If Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s (NYSE: GS) blowout second-quarter earnings demonstrated one thing, it’s that the new “equity-merchant-banking model” - the replacement for the Wall Street investment bank of pre-financial-crisis days gone by - is where financial-sector investors will make their money for years to come.

And there are two clear frontrunners that investors will want to watch - Goldman, and a second equity-merchant-banking firm that every financial-sector investor should take the time to know intimately.

Before we analyze both firms, however, it’s important to understand just why this transformation from investment bank to equity-merchant bank is taking place.

In the fall of 2008, succumbing to the raging inferno of the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) - the two survivors of what was once a cabal of insanely powerful and profitable investment banks - fell swiftly.

Goldman and Morgan, who had laughed off the failure of rival Bear Stearns Cos. and cheered the bankruptcy of even-more-powerful competitor Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (OTC: LEHMQ), weren’t so smug when remaining rival Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. ran into the arms of Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC). Fearing their own spontaneous combustion, the last two remaining full-service investment banks underwent an emergency U.S. Federal Reserve makeover, and emerged as bank holding companies. The objective: to be able to access the federal government’s capital and liquidity safety nets.

As risk-taking investment banks imploded, the overly aggressive use of leverage in an easy-credit environment left the private-equity sector reeling from a devastating one-two punch that some feared threatened the very future of that business: Not only are the private equity firms bruised and battered, many of their leveraged buyout target companies have been pummeled into bankruptcy.

While investment banks and private-equity shops were down for the count, they weren’t actually knocked out. Given this beating, however, it’s clear the two institutions will have to standardize their fighting styles, meaning that one day soon you won’t be able to tell investment banks and private-equity players apart.

But that won’t matter. Once transformed, this new type of institution will constitute the new “equity-merchant-banking class,” and may be the strongest green shoots to emerge from the financial firestorm they both helped ignite.

Some firms, like Goldman Sachs, will not miss a beat. In fact, Goldman is already building on its reputation as one of the greatest-money-making machines the world has ever known. For proof, just look at Goldman’s latest earnings, which are nothing short of spectacular.

Goldman’s Profit Picture

Goldman Sachs earned $3.44 billion for its fiscal second quarter, an all-time record for the company and a result that actually exceeded what it made all last year. Revenue from stock underwriting and from trading hit record levels, too, less than a year after Goldman accepted $10 billion in U.S. bank-bailout money.

Financial risk was clearly amped up and spreads on all the financial instruments Goldman trades and makes markets in were wide enough to drive a truck through, which means there was plenty of “low-hanging fruit” for the company’s traders to benefit from.

As a bit of a back-handed slap at the taxpayers that had lent the company the $10 billion when it needed it - and that gave it another $12 billion from the American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) - Goldman set aside 33% more cash for compensation for its suddenly no-longer-struggling employees.

Land of the Giants?

Though the temple of Goldman Sachs fears no evil, for it finds so many of its former priests in the highest of positions across the fertile valley of American government. The bank spreads its message and money through its proselytizing army of lobbying angels, and there are heretics in the land who have not drunk the “Goldman Kool-Aid” and who are agitating for a reformation.

An upcoming congressional debate on financial regulation will be very telling, since it should allow us to see just how much influence Goldman has on the U.S. legislative process. Any discussion about how to deal with financial firms deemed ‘too big to fail” that doesn’t highlight Goldman serves as evidence of that final hardening of the mix of money and politics that cements our future.

Even if Goldman sidesteps the big question, other issues are percolating, including:

  • Is Goldman’s compensation model the poster child for moral hazard, as it rewards a take-no-prisoners risk-taking approach to trading every instrument under the sun - and those in the shadows, too?
  • Does Goldman enjoy too many “insider” perks, such as unrestricted position trading of energy and other commodity futures, and forward contracts and swaps - even though it is not a producer of any of the commodities it claims to need to hedge?
  • Will it finally come to light that Goldman’s recently stolen “proprietary” trading software actually soaks up market liquidity and increases volatility for the rest of the investing public, while Goldman reaps vast rewards?
  • Will Goldman be allowed to become a clearinghouse agent in the multi-trillion-dollar underworld of credit-default-swap trading, and be allowed to keep an eye on all its counter party trades?
  • Will Goldman’s moneymaking and money-distributing machine be able to continue to grease its success in controlling American government?

Time to Call the Trustbusters?

With Congress diving into the swirling crosscurrents propelling both sides of the debate on all matters of financial regulation, anything can happen. For instance, there have been calls for a return to the good old days of Glass-Steagall, when commercial banks and investment banks were legally kept separate. One of those calls was made by Paul A. Volcker, the inflation-fighting hero and former Fed chairman who is now the chairman of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

And while the powers that profit from the status quo - including most of our legislators and politicians - may let their best ride on the bigger-is-better theory, if there is a push to separate commercial banks from their investment-banking counterparts, investors would do well to follow the spin-offs: It will be the investment banks that will once again have greater leverage latitude to rake in profits, while deposit-taking institutions will be heavily guarded from once again causing an explosion whose fallout debilitates both the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the U.S. taxpayers.

The Looming Profit Picture

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) reports its earnings today (Thursday), while Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) reports tomorrow (Friday). A close look at the two banks’ mixed revenue picture may show a rebound - if not underlying strength - in JPMorgan’s investment-banking and capital-markets business lines, and in BofA’s Merrill Lynch component. Morgan Stanley will be next up, and close scrutiny of its earnings will shed more light on how the old investment-banking model is faring in this post-credit-crunch environment.

The other equity merchant banks - the giant leveraged buyout (LBO) shops that, in the last market dust-up, got good public relations advice and began calling themselves private equity firms - are aggressively plotting their own next set of moves. They are having their troubles, but the largest and most powerful firms will end up seated at the pinnacle of the new financial-services-market pyramid right next to Goldman Sachs.

Investors might do well to watch the stock of one specific LBO shop as it morphs into a full-blooded equity merchant bank.

That player is The Blackstone Group LP (NYSE: BX).

A Player For Investors to Watch

In 1985, with a mere $400,000 in capital, former Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Peter G. Peterson - along with Steven A. Schwarzman, Lehman’s former head of global mergers and acquisitions business - formed Blackstone. This duo of investment-banking heavyweights understood that in order to build a so-called “legacy” firm with real marketplace staying power they would have to populate the company with pedigreed descendants of other venerable banking, trading and political dynasties. And that’s just what the two Blackstone founders did.

Today, Blackstone Group is best known as one of the largest private equity shops in the world. What’s less well known is that Blackstone is much more than just your run-of-the-mill private-equity, LBO shop.

Blackstone is the prototype of the new equity-merchant bank.

Blackstone has four very lucrative business segments that are operated separately from a profit-and-loss standpoint, but still serve as an interconnected web of relationships, transactions, spheres of influence and future-profit-generating potential. The four segments consist of:

  • The Corporate Private Equity Segment, in which Blackstone uses pooled money gathered from pension, insurance, endowment and sovereign wealth funds, as well as other institutional sources. This unit had first-quarter revenue of $68.4 million, a major turnabout from negative revenue of $193.6 million for the fourth quarter of 2008.
  • The Real Estate Segment, which invests directly and indirectly in U.S., European and so-called “special-situation” real-estate transactions through a series of funds. The troubled real estate business had negative revenue of $211.9 million for the first quarter of 2009, compared with negative revenue of $477.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2008, and positive revenue of $47.9 million for the first quarter of 2008.
  • The Marketable Alternative Asset Management Segment, also known as MAAM, which utilizes proprietary hedge funds, funds of funds, closed-end mutual funds, mezzanine debt financing, and senior and subordinated debt investment vehicles. MAAM had revenue of $99.5 million in the first quarter, following negative revenue of $55.7 million for the final quarter of last year.
  • The Financial Advisory Services Segment, which consists of three distinct - but overlapping - businesses: Private Placement Advisory, Restructuring and Reorganization Advisory, and Corporate and Mergers and Acquisitions. This unit has demonstrated some substantial potential of late. Revenue was $92 million for the first quarter, up 29% from the first quarter of 2008, but down 13% from the fourth quarter of last year. Net-fee-related earnings from operations were $24.7 million for the first quarter of 2009, an increase of $22.1 million from the first quarter of last year and an advance of $3.9 million from last year’s final quarter.

It won’t be all roses and champagne for Blackstone in the near future, as even Hamilton E. “Tony” James, Blackstone’s president and chief operating officer recently lamented, “the underlying economy continues to decline and the timing of a turnaround is still uncertain.”

While it’s entirely possible that neither the financial markets nor Blackstone may seen their fortunes soar anytime soon, when the recovery finally does take hold, and capital is flowing more freely again, Blackstone could lead the market in a steep upward ascent.

Near-Term Challenges Abound

In the meantime, however, Blackstone and its private-equity brethren - indeed, the entire private-equity sector - could be facing a host of challenges that essentially amount to another potential reformation movement.

The McKinsey Global Institute and data provider Preqin recently reported that private equity assets under management totaled $1.2 trillion last year, up from $900 billion in 2007.

But there’s bad news. In 2009, fundraising is down an estimated 78% to a projected annualized total of only $89 billion, the McKinsey and Preqin report states. Nearly 43% of assets under management, or some $535 billion, has not been committed to deals. The good news about all that “dry powder” is that it can be put to work to buy distressed and already-discounted assets at their cheapest point. But the bad news is that without easy credit and the ability to leverage debt, all that capital will have a hard time generating the types of returns that private-equity investors signed up for.

 Institutions that commit capital to private equity funds typically allocate a set proportion of their total capital pool to the leveraged-buyout alternative asset category. As their own investment portfolios have shrunk due to the financial collapse, their allocation to private equity now exceeds their intended allocation limits.

In an exquisite irony, however, private equity firms are now beginning to mark down their portfolio companies so deeply that the value of the holdings of their institutional investors is once again below their allocation limits to private equity. That means it’s going to be hard for investors to beg off when private equity firms come calling on their institutional investors to ask for additional capital infusions.

But this irony is creating a backlash from some institutional investors that may ultimately change the way investors commit capital to private equity.

Another issue facing Blackstone is a push by the Obama administration to end the practice of “carried interest,” which allows general partners to not have to “mark-to-market” and have their unrealized profits taxed as ordinary income, but lets them carry their profits until portfolio holdings are sold so that they can then be taxed at the 15% capital gains rate. Even so, as we’ve seen with the reformist attempts aimed at Goldman Sachs, many of the attempts to crimp Blackstone and its big private equity brethren will be pushed back by the powerful machinery of these mega-wealthy financial juggernauts.

With all the potential new regulatory propositions, tougher capital requirements and compensation restrictions hanging over commercial banks, equity-merchant banks like Goldman and Blackstone will have more room to move, more institutional participation through their separate fund vehicles and far greater growth potential in such areas as:

  • Mergers-and-acquisitions dealmaking.
  • Corporate reorganization businesses.
  • Investments in distressed assets.
  • Fee-based investment-banking services.
  • Capital markets trading.
  • Leveraged buyouts.
  • Direct investments in public companies.
  • And private placements.

If they are not sliced and diced as a result of the upcoming congressional regulatory battles, both of these equity merchant giants will be investor favorites for years to come.

[Editor's Note: In future installments in this series, Money Morning will look at such jobless-recovery topics as career-management, managing your finances, planning for retirement, and promising sectors for the future.

Is it a new bull market, or just a bear-market rally that's going to separate investors from the last of their cash? For the shrewdest investors, it may not matter. A new offerfrom Money Morning is a two-way win for investors: Noted commentator Peter D. Schiff's new book - "The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets" - shows investors how to profit no matter which way the market moves, while our monthly newsletter, The Money Map Report, provides ongoing analysis of the global financial markets and some of the best profit plays you'll find anywhere - including such markets as Taiwan and China. To find out how to get both, check out our newest offer.]

Money Morning/The Money Map Report

©2009 Monument Street Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Protected by copyright laws of the United States and international treaties. Any reproduction, copying, or redistribution (electronic or otherwise, including on the world wide web), of content from this website, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of Monument Street Publishing. 105 West Monument Street, Baltimore MD 21201, Email:

Disclaimer: Nothing published by Money Morning should be considered personalized investment advice. Although our employees may answer your general customer service questions, they are not licensed under securities laws to address your particular investment situation. No communication by our employees to you should be deemed as personalized investment advice. We expressly forbid our writers from having a financial interest in any security recommended to our readers. All of our employees and agents must wait 24 hours after on-line publication, or 72 hours after the mailing of printed-only publication prior to following an initial recommendation. Any investments recommended by Money Morning should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor and only after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Money Morning Archive

© 2005-2019 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules