The demand for shares in last week's IPO of Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was truly staggering. A deal worth $21.9bn attracted $350bn from global investors hoping to get in on the action. But that's not the real news.
The real news concerns Goldman Sachs. The canny Wall Street firm, of course, invested $2.6bn for a 5% stake in ICBC just 6 months ago. And, as the Chinese bank now has a market value of around $129bn, Goldman has made a cool $3.85bn paper profit for its troubles. As Bloomberg points out, almost $4bn in 6 months has got to rate as probably the best investment of all time.
It's not, of course, the first time Goldman has done well in China. Both Goldman and Morgan Stanley raked in $500m each last year when they sold their stakes in China's Ping An Insurance Co. The stakes were acquired in 1994 for $70m each. But Goldman has really pushed the boat out in China, and stolen a big march on its rivals. Spending $200m in 2004 to help set-up brokerage and investment banking firm Beijing Gao Hua Securities, Goldman now has a firm foundation upon which to build in a country which is thought likely to see its stock market value quadruple from $402bn at the end of last year to $1.9 trillion by 2010.
And Goldman's China pilgrimage is, more than anything, down to one man. Former CEO and current US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson saw the potential of China in the mid-1980s, and made over 70 visits to the country, building up relationships with key government officials. Way-to-go, Hank - you got China in Goldman's hands.