🖤 Donations of all sizes power our public service journalism Give Now

Corporate dealmaking has picked up. That’s good news for bankers — and the economy.

Justin Ho Apr 15, 2024
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Goldman Sachs reported that investment-banking revenue increased 32% last quarter from the same time in 2023. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Corporate dealmaking has picked up. That’s good news for bankers — and the economy.

Justin Ho Apr 15, 2024
Heard on:
Goldman Sachs reported that investment-banking revenue increased 32% last quarter from the same time in 2023. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The business of banking has become tougher in the last few years. Rising interest rates mean banks have to pay depositors more interest, and many banks have a lot of risky loans on their balance sheets — especially commercial real estate loans.

But big banks have other lines of business that’ve been doing well lately. Like investment banking.

If a corporation wants to raise a bunch of money by selling stock or issuing bonds, it might call up someone like Drew Pascarella, who spent 10 years as an investment banker at Citi, covering the technology, media and telecom sector. He now teaches finance at Cornell University.

He said investment bankers help companies find buyers for those stocks and bonds and help companies purchase other companies or be purchased themselves.

“So there’s lots of different flavors, but an investment bank would help a company think through those merger and acquisition transactions and help them actually effect those transactions in the market,” Pascarella said.

And they charge fees for doing all of that. But until the end of last year, investment bankers’ phones were pretty quiet.

Steve Biggar, a bank analyst at Argus Research, said that last year, corporations were kind of nervous about doing deals. When the economy is uncertain, firms tend to pull back.

“You say, ‘I don’t want to do any expansions, maybe now is not the time, I want to see how everything shakes out in the economy, and are we going to get this soft landing?’ and so forth,” he said.

Companies are also facing higher interest rates and greater regulatory scrutiny. But Christina Sautter, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, said by now, companies have adapted to those challenges.

“Since they’re getting more used to it, they’re more inclined to do deals when they feel like they should or must do deals,” she said.

Monday morning, Goldman Sachs reported that investment-banking revenue was up 32% last quarter compared to the same time a year ago.

Gerard Cassidy, a bank analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said it helps that the economy this year is more certain than it was in 2023.

So corporate dealmakers and investment bankers are likely to stay busy. “More companies are in the pipeline to go public. More mergers and acquisitions are likely to take place this year, which also will drive investment-banking fees,” he said.

Put another way, if investment bankers are getting a lot of calls, Cassidy said, the economy’s probably looking pretty good.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.