There's an under-the-radar business at Goldman Sachs that has been quietly crushing it

Lloyd BlankfeinBryan Bedder/Getty Images for The New York TimesGoldman Sachs Group chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

Goldman Sachs reported third-quarter earnings on Tuesday, crushing Wall Street estimates.

The earnings beat was driven by a huge quarter for the investing and lending business, which posted a 35% increase in revenues. And the fixed income, currencies and commodities business, which has been struggling, jumped 25% from a terrible second quarter.

But while Goldman Sachs’ bond trading woes have garnered plenty of column inches, Goldman’s gains in arranging bonds, otherwise known as debt capital markets work, have attracted less attention.

In the earnings release Tuesday, Goldman Sachs noted:

  • Debt underwriting produced year-to-date net revenues of $US2.03 billion, the highest for the first nine months of the year, reflecting a leading position for the firm’s leveraged finance franchise.

To put that in to perspective, here are the nine months revenue figures for Goldman Sachs’ debt underwriting business for the past few years:

  • September 30 2017 – $US2.03 billion
  • September 30 2016 – $US1.885 billion
  • September 30 2015 – $US1.57 billion
  • September 30 2014 – $US1.83 billion
  • September 30 2013 – $US1. 856 billion
  • September 30 2012 – $US1.37 billion
  • September 30 2011 – $US1.09 billion
  • September 30 2010 – $US962 million

In other words, Goldman Sachs’ debt underwriting revenue has doubled since 2010.

According to Dealogic, Goldman Sachs ranked fourth for US marketed debt capital markets work for the first nine months of the year, behind powerhouse commercial banks Citigroup, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan, but ahead of traditional debt players like Wells Fargo, Barclays and Deutsche Bank. The bank ranked sixth over the same period a year earlier.

And Goldman Sachs has made up ground in just about every segment of the debt market. It’s a top five player in: investment grade debt; financial institution group debt; US marketed loans; yankee debt; high yield and leveraged loans.

The benefit for Goldman Sachs here is twofold. First, the gains in debt capital markets have helped soften the blow of reduced trading revenues. Second, those gains could also help boost the trading business.

A recurring talking point in discussions around Goldman Sachs’ FICC position is its position (or lack thereof) with corporates. While universal banks can count on recurring revenue from multinational corporate accounts, Goldman Sachs has been more heavily exposed to the fortunes of hedge funds.

President and COO Harvey Schwartz said in September that Goldman Sachs is hoping to grow the corporate franchise within FICC, which currently makes up 16% of the business, and boost revenues by $US250 million.

“We have the leading investment banking franchise,” Schwartz said. “We also have a significant global financing franchise. However, our corporate client base is underweight versus peers and we are committed to expanding it.”

Get the latest Goldman Sachs stock price here.

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