U.S. Markets close in 6 mins

Goldman Faces $260 Million Hit From Equity Bets as Uber Plunges

Sridhar Natarajan

(Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s bets on four companies delighted investors a quarter ago. This time around, they’re inflicting about $260 million of pain.

Those losses are driven by investments made for its own account in Uber Technologies Inc. and Avantor Inc., 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 $100 million 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 spokeswoman 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 & Lending 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 & Co. “It’s certainly a headwind in the quarter.”

Mayo recently lowered his estimates and is now forecasting a 30% drop in investing and lending revenue from the second quarter. Goldman Sachs is unique among banks in the scale of its principal investments, with a $22 billion equity portfolio. Executives have said they plan to move their merchant banking units more toward managing client money and away from making bets with the firm’s money.

The investment bank credited Uber and Avantor, along with Tradeweb Markets Inc. and online recruiter HeadHunter Group Plc, with lifting results in the second quarter. The firm said its positions in companies that went public in the second quarter generated about $500 million dollars 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.

The four holdings made up 55% of the company’s $2.6 billion public investment portfolio as of June 30, Chief Financial Officer 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 $400 million in proceeds from Avantor’s initial public offering 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 Inc.’s third-quarter earnings took a hit from WeWork’s dropping valuation as the investment bank had to mark down its stake.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sridhar Natarajan in New York at snatarajan15@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael J. Moore at mmoore55@bloomberg.net, Dan Reichl, David Scheer

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.