Honestly bank earnings week has been a little boring, no? It’s been quarters since anyone announced a six billion dollar trading loss, and the recent news is pretty much modest beats from a diverse mix of businesses and where is the fun in that I ask you. Financial-market memories are short and … have negative serial correlation, or something … which might explain why Goldman is down today despite announcing a $4.29 EPS vs. analysts’ $3.87, with strength in principal investments and debt underwriting making up for so-so FICC revenues.
The call: variations on boring. Goldman CFO Harvey Schwartz painted a picture of Goldman clients who are deterred from strategic activity by macro uncertainty – “oh we can’t do that merger, because, uh, Cyprus” – and so spend their time refinancing their loans every six months to get lower interest rates.1 I suppose their bankers have to make fees somehow. And there don’t seem to be many conclusions to draw from the numbers: FICC revenues are down because there is noise in FICC revenues, not due to any change in business mix or performance. VaR is down because market vols are down, not because of any change in risk appetite. Private equity gains in investing & lending reflect stronger public equity markets because private equity is just beta. I guess.
Nor is Harvey your go-to guy to fulminate about regulation, though these days really no one is. He said various nice things about how the regulators are working hard and getting it right, and how Goldman doesn’t act in anticipation of regulations but only responds to them when they’re final. Others have phrased this less charitably. Thus Goldman’s new BDC is not a preemptive effort to fit prop traders into the Volcker Rule, but just a client-driven part of Goldman’s asset management strategy – “deploying our competencies into opportunities we feel like our clients would benefit from.”
So what’s left? There’s comp, of course: comp accruals were 43% of revenue ($4.34bn), versus 44% in 1Q2012 ($4.38bn), and headcount is down 1%. Analysts tried to push Schwartz to extrapolate a trend there, but again he mostly resisted. Keep enough people to serve clients, etc. Read more »
Goldman insiders said Schwartz, who is 6-foot-4 and holds a black belt in karate, has shown both the disposition and the ability to handle the CFO’s many responsibilities. “He’s a bear of a man, but he’s gentle in his presentation,” said John Rogers, Goldman’s chief of staff and secretary to the board. [Reuters, related]
So how’d Harvey do? I found Goldman’s co-CFOed earnings call this morning a bit awkward but the awkwardness was a bit overwhelmed by IS LLOYD GETTING FIRED TOMORROW?? No, I’d guess?
You can look at Goldman’s results from a variety of distances. Up close, EPS estimates were $2.28 and actuals were $2.85 ($3.33 ex-DVA); $2.85 is more than $2.28 and there’s a dividend increase to boot so, yay there you go.
In the middle distance, you could have some concerns. Core, recurring revenue growth was so-so relative to peers, and costs were high, partly due to pleasing comp accruals, which I guess could concern you if you were a mean ungrateful shareholder and/or a former Goldman employee who for whatever reason is no longer accruing said accruals. Most of the outperformance came from appreciation on investing and lending positions.1
In the far distance, what do you make of it? The most awkward moment of the call for me was when the UBS analyst asked the CFO tag team to try to give him a sense of future Investing & Lending profits. You can’t do that! Investing & Lending is like the stochastic slush fund; revenues were $1.8bn this quarter versus $200 last quarter and ($2.5bn) this time last year. If you could predict those revenues you shouldn’t be a banking analyst. The tag team went like this, paraphrasing wildly: Read more »
Back in 2009, Goldman Sachs Chief Financial Officer David Viniar, whose face may not be as recognizable to you as that of Lloyd’s but whose voice you’ve likely found just as if not more soothing each time you hear it during the firm’s earnings calls, decided he was ready to move on after a three-plus decade long career with The Firm. Normally, that would have been just fine; people would have wished Viniar all the best as he happily waved good-bye to all his colleagues and friends from the gondola lift made of fluffy clouds and money that transports all Goldman Sachs executives to retirement.
Unfortunately for DV, however, it was around the time that he started to think about leaving that Goldman hit some unfortunate rough patches that included “a civil fraud suit by the Securities and Exchange Commission over marketing of mortgage-related securities, a federal criminal probe on the same matter, and a civil suit brought by a hedge fund that bought a Goldman CDO.” And while other higher-ups– no names: Jon Winkelried– would have thought nothing of abandoning Lloyd in his time of need or what kind of message it would have sent that a top official was calling it quits, David “Bones” Viniar is a little more loyal than that. Lot more loyal in fact (“He’s so loyal he’s only going to do anything when the timing is appropriate,” one person said at the time, adding that “David will do whatever the firm asks of him”) and so he stayed. Stayed by Lloyd’s side during his darkest hour. Stayed when the Goldman needed him most. And although some might have hoped he’d forget about wanting to leave; that he could be tricked into staying “just one more year” and another and another and another after that; that that good-bye he put on hold would stay on hold forever; that, if all else failed, Gary Cohn could physically prevent DV from leaving by putting him in a sleeper hold with his legs…that good-bye has come. Read more »