June 6, 2010 8:29 pm

Goldman stung by backlash in China

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Public criticism of Goldman Sachs has come to China, where the investment bank has been lambasted in articles in state-controlled media.

Parts of the media, apparently emboldened by congressional inquiries and public anger in the west, have openly slated Goldman, arguably the most successful foreign investment bank in China.

“Many people believe Goldman Sachs, which goes around the Chinese market slurping gold and sucking silver, may have, using all kinds of deals, created even bigger losses for Chinese companies and investors than it did with its
fraudulent actions in the US,” read the opening lines of an article in the China Youth Daily, a state-owned daily newspaper, last week.

The article was widely
distributed through commercial news portals and the websites
of government mouthpiece Xinhua News and the People’s Daily, the Communist Party publication.

Referring to Goldman as a “black hand” that “played little tricks carefully designed to gamble with Chinese enterprises”, the article made few specific accusations of wrongdoing by the bank.

The report followed similar commentary and articles published in publications including the 21st Century Business Herald, one of the largest financial newspapers in the country, and New Century Weekly, a liberal magazine.

The reports were highly
critical of Goldman for designing and selling oil hedging contracts to state-owned Chinese companies that then lost billions of dollars when oil prices plunged, contrary to Goldman analysts’ predictions, in 2008 and 2009.

Probably the most telling assertion in all of the articles is the complaint that Goldman has been too successful in China, that it has made too much money from underwriting initial public offerings, arranging deals and making its own private equity investments.

Goldman saw a 2007 investment in a small pharmaceuticals export company of less than $5m rise to nearly $1bn at the company’s IPO, a gain of 20,000 per cent.

The bank has a lead role in the IPO of Agricultural Bank of China.

“Goldman has just been so successful in China, but this is one of the perils of success here,” said a senior banker at one rival in China.

“Many of its domestic competitors and some in the government are very unhappy that they have been doing so well lately.”

Chinese business reporters are rarely allowed to criticise powerful state enterprises, but foreign companies are often regarded as fair game.

“We’ve a very strong track record in China and one
we’re proud of, but we
need to help people better understand our business,” Edward Naylor, a spokesman for Goldman, said.

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