Goldman staff to split pounds 100m

GOLDMAN SACHS, the American investment bank that floated in May, will award record bonuses worth more than pounds 100m to the cream of its 2,500- strong London workforce this week.

The highest bonus payments are expected to dwarf the largest ever annual payout to a Goldman trader - pounds 6m - a few years ago.

The bonuses come on top of the share handouts of up to pounds 50m that were given to top Goldman executives, including Labour Party adviser Gavyn Davies, when the firm floated.

The bulk of the rewards will go to the corporate financiers who have advised on deals worth a record $1 trillion (pounds 624m) this year. Goldman Sachs has been retained by a number of big European companies involved in large deals, notably Vodafone, which is bidding for Germany's Mannesmann, and Deutsche Telekom, which bid unsuccessfully for Telecom Italia.

Goldman traders are also expected to enjoy huge rewards. The division has gained from a relatively calm year in the markets, which in recent years have been buffeted by volatility in Russia, the Far East and Latin America. The record level of stock markets in the US and Europe has also helped.

But it is the booming European mergers and acquisitions division at Goldman that is thought to have made the most significant contribution to the record results, which the former partnership is expected to reveal in a fortnight. Annual profits are forecast to come in at $2.25bn (pounds 1.4bn).

However, now that Goldman Sachs shares are quoted on the New York Stock Exchange, the bank will be subject to stricter disclosure rules, which will force it for the first time to reveal details of some of its highest earners. Foreign exchange traders, for example, who can earn up to $100m a year for the bank, can expect to receive bonuses worth at least 10 per cent of their profits. The proportion of profits paid to corporate financiers is even higher, because their fee-based income imposes less risk on the bank's capital.

The bonus pool available to UK employees will be dwarfed, however, by the pot shared by Goldman's Wall Street offices where the bulk of its profits are generated.

Goldman's strong performance will go some way towards quelling concern that the surrender of its partnership status would harm its profitability. The bank finally floated in May, eight months after its first attempt to sell its shares to the public was abandoned because of turbulent market conditions.

Many of the Goldman partners who earned multi-million pound windfalls from the bank's flotation will be forgiven for being blase about their bonuses.

Goldman's payouts kick off a pounds 1bn bonus season, which is expected to see many London-based employees of American investment banks become instant millionaires. Corporate financiers at Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse First Boston and Merrill Lynch will also be generously rewarded for the enormous fees they have generated for their employers.

The size of the bonuses will highlight the perennial problem banks face in trying to prevent staff leaving once their pockets have been lined. One option is to pay a proportion of the remuneration in shares that cannot be touched for a number of years.