Goldman’s Viniar: Why pay twice?

July 14, 2009

HEALTHFOOD-ASIA/Turns out Goldman Sachs is a staunch advocate of going organic — when it comes to the money management business.

As Barclays auctioned off its Barclays Global Investors unit this year, Goldman was widely seen as a likely acquirer. That is until Blackrock In under Larry Fink emerged as the buyer with a $13.5 billion deal.

Lots of other money managers are expected to be sold, as the industry consolidates and cash-strapped banks look for valuables to pawn. But Viniar told analysts Goldman’s preference is to grow the business without deals, and appeared to question the very idea of money manager deals.

“If there were an acquisition that made sense financially for us to do, we would certainly consider it,” he said, something he says every three months to calm down excitable analysts. “When we look at the prices of most of the acquisitions, we think that they haven’t made sense in that you’ve had to assume really heroic growth rates that we don’t think are realistic.” 

Jefferies Putnam Lovell recently said it counted 35 management deals in the second quarter, compared with 52 deals a year earlier. Besides the BGI takeover, Aquiline Capital Partners acquired Conning & Co,  JPMorgan Chase bought the remainder of its Highbridge Capital Management hedge fund unit and Woori Finance purchased Credit Suisse’s 30 percent interest in a joint venture.

Yet Viniar notes money management firm deals are tricky, since buyers have to pay a premium for the company and then put up more money to retain star managers. And even as billions of profits come sloshing into Goldman’s coffers, Viniar apparently doesn’t like to part ways with the firm’s cash.

“It has taken a while, but we’ve grown (the asset management business) quite successfully, almost exclusively organically.” he said. “And the high likelihood is that is the way we are going to continue to grow it in the future.”

(Photo: A customer walks past organic products in an organic food chain store in Taipei/Pichi Chuang)

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