Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Tuesday that profits fell 13% in its fiscal first quarter, to $768 million, on weakness in investment banking underwriting activities.
Despite the decline, per-share earnings of $1.40, which exclude a one-time charge for the acquisition of Spear, Leeds & Kellogg, beat the consensus of analysts by 11 cents.
The report is a considered harbinger of what other investment banks will report, most of them this week, for fiscal quarters that ended Feb. 28.
We are clearly operating in a slower and more uncertain environment, David Viniar, the firms chief financial officer, said during a conference call Tuesday. No amount of diversity in business lines can insulate Goldman from the market, he said.
Investment banking underwriting suffered most, generating $415 million in net revenue, a 36% decline from the first quarter of 2000.
And the results portend more sluggishness to come. According to a written statement by the firm, Goldman Sachs backlog declined significantly during the quarter reflecting lower equity market valuations, reduced merger activity, and general market uncertainty.
Goldman Sachs will continue to shift banking resources from technology and telecommunications to sectors such as financial services and energy, Mr. Viniar said. The firm will also reallocate resources away from cash trading and into derivatives trading, a higher margin business with more value-added products, he said.
The New York investment banks financial advisory business, trading, asset management, and securities services all boosted the bottom line.
The financial advisory business generated net revenues of $730 million during the first quarter, gaining 25% over the same quarter a year earlier. Trading and principal investments, meanwhile, inched up 3%, to $2.3 billion, when compared with the first quarter 2000.
Given the market conditions, first-quarter mergers and acquisitions numbers were better than I would have thought, said Mark Constant, an equities analyst at Lehman Brothers.
Asset management revenues increased 20% over the year-earlier period, to $368 million.
Like many other Wall Street firms, Goldman has been keeping a close watch on expenses lately to keep step with the market slowdown. Goldman has tried to do this without mass layoffs, but some workers have been dismissed as part of an annual review process.