Goldman Sachs beats estimates for first-quarter profit, but markets hurt revenue

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Goldman Sachs posted first quarter profit that exceeded analysts’ expectations, while company-wide revenue missed on tougher market conditions for two of the firm’s main divisions.

The bank generated $2.25 billion of profit in the period, or $5.71 a share, compared with the $4.89 estimate. Meanwhile, revenue dropped 13% to $8.81 billion on lower results in the bank’s Wall Street trading and Investing and Lending segment, below analyst’s $8.9 billion estimate. Shares seesawed from losses to gains following the report.

“We are pleased with our performance in the first quarter, especially in the context of a muted start to the year,” Goldman CEO David Solomon said in the release. “Our core businesses generated solid results driven by our strong franchise positions. We are focused on new opportunities to grow and diversify our business mix and serve a broader range of clients globally.”

Goldman’s Institutional Client Services division, which houses its trading operations, posted $3.61 billion in revenue for the quarter, an 18 percent decline from a year earlier. Revenues from fixed income and equities trading came in at $1.84 billion and $1.77 billion, essentially matching analysts’ estimates.

The company’s investment banking division posted revenue of $1.81 billion, roughly unchanged from a year earlier, as the firm’s advisory revenue jumped 51% to $887 million on robust mergers and acquisitions activity. That handily exceeded the $744 million estimate.

The firm’s Investing and Lending segment posted $1.84 billion in revenue, a 14 percent decline that was just shy of analysts’ $1.87 billion estimate. The drop was driven by “significantly lower net gains” from stakes in private equities and debt holdings.

The bank’s board voted to increase its quarterly dividend by 5 cents to .85 cents per share, a move that had been expected by investors.

It’s only Solomon’s second quarter running the bank, but analysts will have plenty of questions for him.

The investment bank, which historically counted governments, corporations and hedge funds as clients, took a notable step in its journey into consumer finance last month when its joint credit card with Apple was announced. Analysts will want to know what the economics of the deal mean for the New York bank.

Still, of the six biggest U.S. banks, Goldman is the most dependent on Wall Street activities, and that means analysts will want to know how the firm’s trading operations fared in the quarter. J.P. Morgan Chase said last week that first-quarter trading revenue dropped 17 percent to $5.5 billion.

Solomon or his CFO Stephen Scherr might also provide updates on a strategic review announced in October and progress on the bank’s $5 billion revenue-boosting plan, according to analyst Jason Goldberg of Barclays.

Another topic of discussion may be the bank’s 1MDB scandal. Goldman’s shares were battered last year in part because of the ordeal, in which an ex-Goldman partner admitted to helping a Malaysian financier loot an investment fund of billions of dollars.

The shares have partially recovered this year, climbing more than 20 percent.

Here’s what Wall Street expected:

Earnings: $4.89 a share, down 30% from a year ago, according to Refinitiv.
Revenue: $8.9 billion, down 10% from a year earlier.
Trading Revenue: Equities $1.81 billion; Fixed income $1.77 billion, according to FactSet
Investing Banking: $1.65 billion

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