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Goldman Sachs’ $2.8Bn Bond Deal – Is the Outrage Justified?

May 31, 2017

So, Goldman Sachs purchased $2.8 billion worth of bonds issued in 2014 by the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or Pdvsa, at a 70% discount. At that price, the bonds will throw off an implied annual yield north of 40%.


Was it wrong for Goldman Sachs to invest in bonds issued by a country whose citizens are in near revolt and where the treasury has barely enough ready cash to feed its people - let alone enough to pay off its mountains of debt?


Falling oil prices and years of economic mismanagement when oil revenues were high, have led to triple-digit inflation. Most Venezuelans can barely afford the necessities, while those who can are having trouble finding basic supplies.


Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges, who leads Venezuela’s National Assembly, thinks Goldman was wrong. He wrote a letter to Lloyd Blankfein accusing Goldman Sachs of looking to make a “quick buck off the suffering of the Venezuelan people” and helping to support a government that reportedly has used violence against its protesting citizens.


Goldman responded by saying it didn't purchase the bonds from or interact with the government, and that the bond is held by numerous other institutional investors – including mutual funds and ETFs.


And Goldman implicitly shares the conviction of other global investors who bet that emerging market economies, regardless of their political and economic challenges, will continue to, not only, pay off their existing debt, but will sell more of these types of bonds. After all, how can a country like Venezuela, where oil revenues accounts for 95% of the country’s foreign currency, dare to default on its monstrous debt.


The bottom line, in our opinion, Goldman Sachs was justified in making its purchases, and that the expressed outrage was simply a political statement by Venezuela’s opposition.