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Goldman partners call for float to be delayed

THE FLOTATION of Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs is looking increasing uncertain, with a significant minority of senior partners calling for the listing to be delayed or called off because of volatile financial markets.

The doubts have been compounded by problems with the 100 or so retired partners who have objected to attempts to renegotiate a formula guaranteeing the value of their shareholdings in the light of the fall of 40 to 50 per cent in investment bank shares since the financial crisis broke in August. This has wiped up to $15bn off the $30bn value of the bank at the market peak in July.

Goldman's 300 partners are scheduled to meet early next month to finalise the terms of the listing. In the meantime, senior management has been left in charge of the flotation.

However, the confidence of Goldman's co-chairmen, Jon Corzine and Henry Paulson, who until last week were insisting the float would go ahead, has begun to ebb as opponents have seized on the stock market fall as vindication of their earlier opposition. An investment bank source said last night: "The talk is that they will pull it."

The problems with the so-called limited partners arose over a deal struck when the plan to float was made earlier this year. Exceptionally, they were to be guaranteed 1.55 times the book value of the bank on listing. However, Mr Corzine has been seeking to renegotiate these terms to reflect the fact that if the value of their holdings remained static while the overall value of the bank fell, they would end up with an unacceptably large share of Goldman's total capital.This would hamper attempts to redistribute shares Goldman's "marzipan layer" - senior executives just below partnership level - which was one of the key justifications advanced by Mr Corzine for changing the structure of Wall Street's last sizeable partnership firm.

With only 10 per cent of the stock to be sold to outsiders, and staff barred from selling for three to five years, the bank has insisted all along that the listing is not about raising cash.