Goldman Sachs expects $5 billion hit from tax overhaul in 4Q

A view of the Goldman Sachs stall on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Reuters)
Updated 29 December 2017
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Goldman Sachs expects $5 billion hit from tax overhaul in 4Q

NEW YORK: Goldman Sachs expects to take a $5 billion hit to profits for the fourth quarter and year because of the tax overhaul signed into law last week.
As a result, the New York bank will likely report a loss for the last quarter of 2017. But Goldman and other banks will be among the largest beneficiaries of the new tax code.
Goldman on Friday became one of the first companies to release details on how changes in the tax code will affect how money parked overseas is handled. The bank said two-thirds of the $5 billion is related to changes in repatriation taxes, when funds are returned from overseas.
The new tax overhaul imposes a discounted one-time levy on overseas money returned to the US — 15.5 percent for earnings held in cash or other liquid assets and 8 percent for earnings held in harder-to-sell assets. Previously, companies had to pay a 35 percent corporate tax when they returned that money, so they left it parked overseas.
It has been expected that changes in the law would prompt many companies to return money to the US, potentially $2.5 trillion or more. Keefe Bruyette & Woods analyst Brian Kleinhanzl estimated that the repatriation part of Goldman’s charge equates to an 11 percent tax rate, based on the $32.6 billion in undistributed foreign earnings Goldman had at the end of 2016.
Goldman had been expected to post fourth-quarter net income of $2.07 billion, according to banking analysts polled by FactSet. The bank reports earnings in mid-January.
After taking a hit on repatriated earns, Goldman, and other banks, will operate in a much more favorable tax environment.
The tax measure signed into law by President Donald Trump this month spreads benefits across a wide array of American industry, including banks.
Finance and insurance companies would have paid an effective corporate tax rate of 26.1 percent next year. Now, it will be 14.3 percent. Analysts at Goldman Sachs have estimated that the tax law will boost big-bank earnings per share by 13 percent next year. The top beneficiary will be Wells Fargo, which has been dogged by scandals over cheating customers. It will enjoy an 18 percent earnings surge in 2018, Goldman estimates.
Economists believe the overall effect on the economy will be muted, however, because of those cuts to the US corporate tax rate.
Historically, repatriated profits have not had a broad effect on the US economy anyway.
A 2004 law temporarily cut taxes on repatriated profits to 5.25 percent, from 35 percent. That led 843 companies to bring back $312 billion. But those companies tended to use the money to buy back shares of their own stock, not to hire or expand operations.
Goldman also said part of the reduction to fourth-quarter earnings comes from recalculating the value of it deferred tax assets. Those are past losses that companies can use to lower future tax bills. Goldman and other banks suffered huge losses during the financial crisis. Those assets will now have less value because of the lower corporate tax rate.
The effect of the tax changes on Goldman Sachs was revealed in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission early on Friday.
The company did not say how changes in the tax law would affect its decisions on investments going forward, and did not immediately return messages left early Friday.
Shares of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. fell 1 percent to $254 in early trading.


Can green investment help relaunch Germany’s economy?

Updated 45 min 1 sec ago

Can green investment help relaunch Germany’s economy?

  • The German government has so far shown little willingness to change its stance

FRANKFURT, Germany: A recession looms for Germany and the European Central Bank is pleading for governments to spend more to revitalize economic growth. Yet despite having the luxury of borrowing money for less than nothing, the German government is keeping a tight rein on its finances.
A debate over Germany’s devotion to budget austerity is intensifying as the outlook for the economy dims and public pressure grows to address big issues such as global warming. On Friday, the government will unveil a raft of measures that could include billions in incentives and spending to make the economy more environmentally-friendly.
“The call for fiscal stimulus has never been louder,” said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist for the bank ING Germany. “And this week will show whether the eurozone country with the deepest pockets finally plans to empty them.”
The slowdown in growth across Europe, blamed largely on the US-China trade conflict and uncertainty about Brexit, is putting a sharp focus on Germany’s devotion to the so-called “Schwarze Null,” or “black zero,” which refers to the policy of balancing the budget — the zero — with at least a small surplus to keep it in the black.
The debate over government spending policy affects the entire 19-country eurozone, since more government outlays by Germany and other fiscally sound countries such as the Netherlands could help support growth by building new infrastructure, such as roads, rail lines or high-speed Internet, or by gathering less in taxes.
The German government has so far shown little willingness to change its stance. It has ignored repeated pleas from the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, who said last week it was “high time” for government spending to take over as the main tool of economic policy. The central bank announced interest rate cuts and bond purchases in an attempt to ward off a downturn.
The government argues it’s important to reduce debt while the economy is growing and not to burden future generations. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz submitted a balanced draft budget of 360 billion euros ($400 billion) for 2020 last week and Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech before the German Taxpayers’ Federation that the government was sticking to its balanced budget, “not as a goal in itself, as we are often accused of doing, but because clear economic reasons and fairness aspects argue for that.”
Merkel noted that Germany’s total debt would fall below 60% of gross domestic product — the limit for countries that use the euro — for the first time since 2002. The German constitution itself sharply limits deficits to 0.35% of GDP except in a crisis, yet the government’s surpluses go well beyond that requirement.
While the German government may not be giving up on balanced budgets, there are signs it is at least easing up the zeal with which it amasses surpluses.
Last year’s surplus of 1.9% of GDP has fallen to 1.4% this year and is expected to hit 0.9% next year — meaning that the government is already providing some fiscal stimulus. Germany’s economy shrank 0.1% in the second quarter and underlying figures are pointing to another quarter of contraction, which would put the country in a technical recession.
It is striking that the government refuses any new borrowing at a time when it can do so at negative interest rates — meaning it would get paid back more than it borrows. German 10-year bonds currently yield minus 0.48%, and the government was able to sell a 30-year bond at a negative interest rate in August.
Marcel Fratscher, the head of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, has called the balanced budget a “false fetish.” His institute has argued that Germany needs to invest in long-term modernization projects such as extending digital services in rural areas.
The president of the Federation of German Industries, Dieter Kempf, said in an interview with Der Spiegel that “it’s worth considering sensible use of the space,” allowed by the constitution to fund more investment.
The calls to spend are not coming only from those concerned about the economy, but also climate activists who say more needs to be done to shift the world economy from carbon-intensive industries and consumption. Public pressure has only grown after the country witnessed its hottest summer on record and the opposition Greens party made big gains in elections to the European Parliament and in domestic polls.
On Friday, the government is expected to unveil a package of incentives aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from homes and autos so that Germany can meet its goals under the 2015 Paris climate accord. Possible measures include incentives to replace old heating systems or to purchase battery-powered autos. A report in Die Welt newspaper said the government was considering measures totaling some 40 billion euros ($44 billion) through 2023.
Brzeski said such a program “would not be enough to stop the slide of the economy toward recessionary territory, but it could be an important cornerstone in Germany’s recovery and its quest for a new economic model.”
Spending on that level would only be “a slow-motion stimulus” since it will take time to roll out, said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg bank.
“It will add up over time and support domestic demand,” he said. “However, the German stimulus will not be a European, let alone a global, game changer.”