That Was The Year That Was - 2007 (March - April)

Here's a note of some of the stories that were hitting the headlines in March and April 2007.

MARCH

The month started with the rather silly story of a Trainee trader at Goldman Sachs who received a note from IT suggesting that he desist from spending so much work time surfing social networking site Facebook (he was said to have clocked up 500 hours online in the previous 6 months). Undaunted, the trainee posted up the warning he received on the social networking site, and boasted that 'it's a measure of how warped I've become that......losing my job worries me less' than losing access to Facebook 'ever could'. Lost his job he did, and he and Goldman soon parted company.

Barclays Bank was said to have made an 'informal' bid for under fire Dutch bank ABN AMRO. A Barclays / ABN AMRO combination would have created the world's 5th largest banking group, with 230,000 staff.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Citigroup executives were 'putting the finishing touches' to a restructuring plan that could see 5% of the company workforce, or 15,000 jobs, being axed.

US private equity firm Blackstone's 770 employees produced an average of $2.95m in profit in 2006 - almost 9 times the same figure over at Goldman Sachs. The Blackstone figures were released in a regulatory filing ahead of the firm's then imminent IPO.

Rumours began circulating that Royal Bank of Scotland was also mulling over a bid for ABN AMRO.

Finally, HSBC drew a line in the sand and admitted defeat in its bid to build a global investment bank. The bank said that, in future, it would build an investment bank that was emerging markets-led and financing focused, and would stop trying to be all things to all men.

APRIL

Breaking his promise not to make any further acquisitions that diluted earnings after more than 12 months, Citi CEO Chuck Prince signed off on the purchase of hedge fund Old Lane Partners in a deal worth up to $800m. Prince was said to have made the acquisition to lure in one man - Old Lane co-founder Vikram Pandit, who came aboard at Citi as head of alternative investments.

FT Deutschland reported that WestLB had suffered a one-day trading loss of some $134m after traders speculated on share movements at Volkswagen.  

Citi came out and confirmed it was to eliminate 17,000 jobs in 2007 in order to save $2.1bn. The company announced plans to take out certain layers of management and said it would reduce staff numbers at its corporate center. Back, middle and corporate functions were to be integrated, and in excess of 9,500 jobs would be transferred to lower cost locations.
Bank Of Montreal CEO Bill Downe announced the biggest trading loss in Canadian history - a US$404m loss sustained in natural gas trading.

Institutional Investor's Alpha magazine reported that James Simons, a former maths professor and founder of Rennaissance Technologies, made an estimated $1.7bn in 2006 - making the $54.3m pulled in by Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein seem like small change.

Shares in Barclays Bank rose a one point in the month, after rumours that JPMorgan Chase was mulling over a bid for the UK bank.

Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander Central and Fortis confirmed that they were prepared to top the Barclays bid for Dutch bank ABN AMRO - kicking off the biggest takeover battle in the history of the financial services industry. The group of banks said that they would pay $98bn for ABN, a bid 13% higher than that then on the table from Barclays.

Finally, WestLB was said to have pulled the plug on prop trading after those trading losses reported earlier in the month.



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