Lipper HedgeWorld Staff.
Any discussion of the third quarter has to start with the turbulence that extended from US credit markets throughout the global financial industry. Rooted in credit derivatives that either contained, or were backed by, pools of sub-prime mortgages, the market gyrations of late July and early August claimed a number of levered hedge funds, including two run by Bear Stearns Cos. Inc.
Some parts of the credit markets seized up as investors tried to shed what they viewed to be toxic lower-rated paper. The contagion spread to higher-rated structured credit products, too, because of fears some of the loan pools might have exposure to sub-prime debt and because investors lost confidence in the bond rating agencies. Those agencies, including Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service, came under fire for issuing high ratings to pools of debt that had exposure to sub-prime mortgages.
The problems evident by the end of the third quarter, sharply contrasted the almost giddy note on which the quarter opened with the last of the investment banking initial public offerings. Interspersed were some key personnel changes, including Peter Wuffli leaving UBS, and a host of new fund launches that displayed a growing emphasis on emerging markets and environmental and socially responsible businesses.
With that, let’s get into it, starting with the fallout from the sub-prime meltdown.
Results tell the story
Big losses at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s in-house hedge funds resulted in a steep decline in performance fee revenue for the year-to-date through August, but this was offset by a large increase in management fees from other asset classes. In the end, the loss in performance fee revenue turned out to be immaterial in the context of the bank’s total income. Goldman reported on 20 September that net income increased 79% in the turbulent three months ending on 31 August. Third-quarter earnings per share were $6.13, up from $3.26 for third quarter of 2006. Average return on common shareholders’ equity for the first nine months of 2007 was 37.5%.
Hedge funds were one murky spot in the generally bright Goldman record. The flagship macro-strategy fund, Global Alpha, lost 30% during the third quarter and faces more than $1.6 billion in redemption requests from investors, Goldman Chief Financial Officer David Viniar said during a conference call. He said redemptions at the other hedge funds were not very material. There have been widespread reports of losses and redemptions at Goldman’s hedge funds. Goldman Sachs Group’s Global Alpha hedge fund fell 22.5% in August, on losses from currency and stock trades Bloomberg News reported, citing an update sent to investors. The news service said the quantitative hedge fund had dropped by a third in 2007 and investors had notified the fund that they planned to withdraw $1.6 billion from the fund, or almost a fifth of its assets.
Goldman’s Global Equity Opportunities (GEO) Fund took the virtually unprecedented step of reopening itself to new and existing investors on 10 August, after it had lost 30% of its value over four days. The new investments generated paper profits of around $450 million, including $300 million for Goldman. However, the GEO fund and the firm’s flagship Global Alpha Fund each finished down for the month, said an investor familiar with the results. Goldman Sachs refused to comment about the matter. It also declined to say whether the fund remains open to new investors.
It is understood that Goldman chose to de-leverage GEO in response to the four-day plunge in early August. It could have liquidated positions to do so. However, in a bold manoeuvre, it opted to invest more capital after analysts judged its portfolio to be heavily oversold. Goldman is thought to have been wary of injecting debt financing, since it would have diluted other investors.