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Goldman Sachs to Exit Russia in Wall Street’s First Pullout

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What You Need to Know

  • Meanwhile, Citigroup Inc. said Wednesday that it is assessing operations in the country.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said it plans to close its operations in Russia, the first major Wall Street bank to leave in response to the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Goldman Sachs is winding down its business in Russia in compliance with regulatory and licensing requirements,” the company said Thursday in an emailed statement. “We are focused on supporting our clients across the globe in managing or closing out pre-existing obligations in the market and ensuring the well-being of our people.”

The Wall Street powerhouse has maintained a presence in Russia in recent years, but the country doesn’t amount to a meaningful portion of its global banking business. At the end of 2021, the firm’s total credit exposure to Russia was $650 million, most of which was tied to non-sovereign counterparties or borrowers.

While Goldman is exiting Russia, the firm is still trading corporate debt tied to the country without the bank itself making wagers on price movements, a representative said.

“In our role as market-maker standing between buyers and sellers, we are helping our clients reduce their risk in Russian securities which trade in the secondary market, not seeking to speculate,” New York-based Goldman Sachs said in the statement.

Goldman has already been moving some of its Moscow-based staff to Dubai, responding to requests by some of its Russia staff to work from a different location.

While Goldman is the first Wall Street firm to announce a departure, Citigroup Inc. said Wednesday that it’s assessing operations in the country. It previously announced efforts to exit its consumer business there, and is now operating it “on a more limited basis given current circumstances and obligations,” Edward Skyler, executive vice president of global public affairs, said in a statement.

Potential suitors for Citigroup’s retail operation in Russia are now subject to sanctions imposed by the U.S. government, adding another obstacle to the planned sale. Citigroup’s roughly 3,000 workers there give it by far the largest presence of any major U.S. bank in the country.

It said last month it had about $9.8 billion of loans, assets and other exposure tied to Russia, local companies and their counterparties, as well as to the Bank of Russia, as of the end of 2021.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank by assets, hasn’t commented on its Russia exposure or on plans for its operations there.

European Banks

The turmoil caused by the war has also led European lenders to examine their exposure to the region after investors sent their stocks tanking at the onset of the conflict.

  • Deutsche Bank AG has pointed to the potential closing of its information-technology hub in Russia as a risk, though the company said it’s “well contained.” The bank has more than 1,300 IT staffers in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and said the invasion is forcing it to consider options for the business and its employees.
  • BNP Paribas SA shelved an investor day planned for next week because of the war, and also said it suspended financing of new projects in Russia, after years of scaling back its operations in the country.
  • Credit Agricole SA and Societe Generale SA have also paused some new financing linked to Russia amid fears of widening sanctions.
  • Raiffeisen Bank International, the European lender most exposed to Russia and Ukraine, has halted the payment of its dividend as it assesses the impact of economic sanctions.

(Image: Bloomberg)

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