Goldman And Morgan Stanley Both Say They're #1 In M&A -- Here's Why They're Both Right

number one sign

Photo: mrkumm via Flickr

In their earnings releases, both Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley touted their top position in global mergers and acquisitions.Huh?

How can both Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley be #1?

Basically, each bank chose a slightly different stat to cite.

Here’s what they did.

Goldman Sachs: “…continued to rank first in worldwide announced mergers and acquisitions for┬áthe calendar year.” [emphasis added]

Morgan Stanley: “….Ranked #1 in Global Completed M&A…” [emphasis added]

So that’s the difference, announced versus completed M&A.

And this isn’t the only way bank slice and dice this type of data, it’s just the most public.

In pitchboook after pitchbook for M&A, IPOs, bond offerings, etc. bankers find new ways to carve data to show their leadership. Figures are cut by industry, multi-year or partial year periods, geography, and so on.

And then, when the doctored results are in, the bank can (hopefully) say they are number one. And if not, in the top three or four, or five. If that’s not manageable, an analyst gets tasked with finding some or any way to cut the data to show a competitive ranking.

While this process might be a bit opaque, the results are fairly transparent.

After all, as one acerbic bank executive once told me, when someone tells you they are ‘in the top four’ in any category, they’re just telling you they’re fourth on the list.

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