Goldman Sachs misses out on WhatsApp, 2014’s top deals so far

ReutersFebruary 21, 2014 

WhatsApp? Not Goldman Sachs.

The world’s top deal adviser for nine of the past 10 years, Goldman Sachs Group has been notably absent on 2014’s largest mergers and acquisitions, including Facebook’s $19 billion deal to purchase mobile messaging service WhatsApp.

Normally the go-to banker for big deals, Goldman has missed out on the top five transactions in the young year, according to Thomson Reuters data. Facebook relied on boutique investment firm Allen & Co. to help with its offer to buy startup WhatsApp, which in turn chose Morgan Stanley.

The deal, announced Wednesday, will earn the two banks up to $85 million in estimated fees, according to Freeman & Co. LLC, a mergers and acquisitions advisory firm which researches the financial services industry.

Typically, Goldman Sachs starts out slowly and still lands at the top of the league tables by the end of the year. One big transaction can heavily sway bankers’ rankings.

But Goldman has advised on only four of the top 20 deals announced this year so far, excluding Charter Communications’ attempt to buy Time Warner Cable.

Bankers also risk missing out on more big deals as companies opt to use a small number of advisers, partly to reduce the chance of leaks and as chief executives lead the charge in negotiating deals themselves. Goldman, which declined to comment on the deal data, backed Charter in what would have been the biggest deal of the year, but last week Comcast Corp. agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion. If regulators approve the deal, other banks will share up to $143 million in fees the deal is estimated to generate.

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