Goldman bounce back to land global M&A crown

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After a year to forget for its publicity department, business is as brisk as ever at Goldman Sachs which was set to finish 2010 as the top global adviser on takeover deals.

The Teflon investment bank has shrugged off regulatory fines, a public backlash, injudicious statements from its chief executive and the tag of being "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity" during the financial crisis. Yet, none of this has tarnished its advisory business; just hours before Thomson Reuters closed its annual mergers and acquisitions (M&A) league table, Goldman was sat at the top of the pile of investment banking big beasts. The preliminary table, which is based on deal value, saw it beating Morgan Stanley into second place.

Goldman advised on 368 announced deals worth a combined $553.5bn (£353.5bn), while Morgan Stanley worked on 393 valued at $537.9bn. JP Morgan came in third, advising on $440bn worth of deals. Among the largest deals of the year, Goldman advised GDF Suez Energy on its $25bn tie-up with International Power, and Weather Investment, whose assets were targeted by the Russian group VimpelCom.

The banks profess to care little for the advisory rankings, yet the end of each year is met with a brutal jostle for pole position.

In 2006, controversy erupted over last-minute deal credit which saw Thomson – then Thomson Financial – reject Citigroup's claim to include its work for the oil company Norsk Hydro on its $28bn takeover by Statoil. The move, after "extensive dialogue between all parties", saw Morgan Stanley crowned top European M&A adviser for the year.

Goldman, which was top of the table after the first six months of 2010, has endured a trying year. The bank, which was seen in some quarters as the epitome of investment banking excesses, settled a civil fraud case brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in April. This was followed by fines imposed by City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority. It also faced criticism following comments by its chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, that the bank was doing "God's work".

In October, Goldman launched an advertising campaign to improve its public image. The legendary New York ad man Jerry Della Femina said at the time: "It's like they're apologising for being bad boys."

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