Goldman Sachs further shrinks commodities trading

LONDON (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc , once one of the most active banks in commodities trading, has cut 10 roles to further downsize its global commodities trading division amid rising costs and shrinking profits.

FILE PHOTO: The Goldman Sachs company logo is seen in the company's space on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Three sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday the cuts were announced this week following an annual review of headcount across all divisions and regions. Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

The commodities trading business was once one of Goldman’s largest, most active units and a significant driver of profits earned by the Wall Street bank until tighter regulation curbed the risks it could take on proprietary bets.

Cuts were accelerated as competition with trading houses and oil majors increased and as profits shrank.

Three out of the 10 people being let go held senior roles or managing director positions within the company’s commodities unit, a source with knowledge of the cuts said.

The cuts are global and will involve merging the commodities unit’s metals trading desks, the source said.

Banks do not disclose their commodities revenues but financial analytics firm Coalition estimates the top 12 banks generated commodities trading revenue of less than $4 billion in 2018, down from nearly $16 billion in 2008.

Fixed income, currencies and commodities revenues across all major investment banks dropped to their lowest levels seen since the financial crisis in the final quarter of 2018, the Coalition data showed, with oil trading suffering significant declines across the year.

Goldman launched a months-long review of the commodities division to evaluate its profitability and the use of capital.

The review began under Goldman’s previous chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, who was once a commodity trader himself and was seen as a big supporter of the division, but was completed under the new chief, David Solomon, who has never traded commodities.

The review showed the business was using too much capital for too little profit, the Wall Street Journal reported in February, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Journal said Goldman was discussing pulling back in physical trading of iron ore, platinum and other metals.

One of the sources told Reuters on Friday that Goldman was not exiting any commodity businesses and they would remain a large and important part of the bank’s securities division.

Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Sinead Cruise, additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by Edmund Blair, Elaine Hardcastle and Jonathan Oatis