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Goldman Partners Back IPO

Partners at Goldman Sachs backed plans on Monday to go public, making the venerable investment bank the last major holdout on Wall Street to pursue an IPO.

Few details were released, but Goldman said its partners "overwhelmingly" supported plans to file a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission "later this summer."

If the deal is done at some of the unconfirmed numbers being bandied about on Monday, the IPO would likely be the largest ever. To date, the largest IPO in the U.S. has been Lucent's $3 billion sale.

Some analysts have said that the offering would likely mean putting a 10-25 percent stake on the market. An IPO could value the 129-year-old bank, which reported record earnings of $3 billion last year, at $25 billion to $30 billion.

Goldman is expected to draw in most of the major Street firms to help manage the IPO, with some talk afoot that Goldman itself will lead manage its own IPO. Hambrecht & Quist lead managed in its 1996 IPO.

"Even though there are jitters currently, we think there's a lot of interest in Goldman and its positions as the premier investment banking firm," said Kathy Smith, portfolio manager at Renaissance Capital's IPO Fund.

"It's a bellwether, and the fact they are moving forward is self-fulfilling prophecy. What they are saying is that the waters are going to be pretty good for IPOs this fall," she added.

Going public would give Goldman "acquisition currency," said Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. analyst Rafael Soifer. Competitors Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Travelers Group unit Salomon Smith Barney have been able to make stock-based purchases since selling stakes to the public.

"This strong consensus among the partners and throughout the firm will permit us to move confidently to adopt our structure to the mission we are pursuing," co-chairman Jon S. Corzine and Henry M. Paulson Jr. said in a statement.

The partners endorsed the IPO idea at a retreat in early June. They and some 200 managing directors of Goldman stand to become even richer with the IPO.

Goldman partners have resisted going public several times. What's changed is that rivals have aligned themselves to compete as full-service financial services companies, as in the case of Travelers Group's Salomon SmithBarney and Morgan Stanley with Dean Witter.

Written By Emily Church

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