Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wall Street winers vs losers

Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs

UBS and Deutsche Bank

Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers

--Citi, Morgan Stanley, UBS and Merrill have among them written off $65 billion so far because of the credit crisis. Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman, Deutsche and Lehman have racked up write-downs totaling around $9 billion. The average share-price performance of the first quartet was minus 36% last year. The latter group was down 5.3%.

--The losers were infected by what one could call Goldman envy. The winners were more immune to the malady.

--The snag is that a bank is unlikely to manage things well when it's expanding rapidly and doesn't have experience. It may put the wrong people in place, not institute the right controls and implement the wrong incentive schemes.

--So why were others relatively immune to Goldman envy? Well, Lehman had a big, lucrative mortgage-lending and structuring business, so it didn't need to engage in a breakneck game of catch-up. Deutsche arguably also had a more ingrained risk-taking culture. Meanwhile, J.P. Morgan had more market-savvy leadership in James Dimon than, say, Citi had in Charles Prince. --All this suggests two lessons. If you are a chimp, don't try to kid yourself that you're a gorilla. And, if you see a chimp pumping itself frantically with steroids, sell its stock.

No comments: