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Aug 01

Goldman’s new money machine: warehouses

By Pratima Desai, Clare Baldwin, Susan Thomas and Melanie Burton

Right: A warehouse contracted out by Goldman Sachs warehouse subsidiary Metro International Trade Services to hold metals is seen in Detroit in this photo taken July 12, 2011. / Credit: Reuters/Clare Baldwin

(Reuters) – In a rundown patch of Detroit, enclosed by a cyclone fence and barbed wire, stands an unremarkable warehouse that investment bank Goldman Sachs has transformed into a money-making machine.

The derelict neighborhood off Michigan Avenue is a sharp contrast to Goldman’s bustling skyscraper headquarters near Wall Street, but the two operations share one important element: management by the bank’s savvy financial professionals.

A string of warehouses in Detroit, most of them operated by Goldman, has stockpiled more than a million tonnes of the industrial metal aluminum, about a quarter of global reported inventories.

Simply storing all that metal generates tens of millions of dollars in rental revenues for Goldman every year.

There’s just one problem: much less aluminum is leaving the depots than arriving, creating a supply pinch for manufacturers of everything from soft drink cans to aircraft.

The resulting spike in prices has sparked a clash between companies forced to pay more for their aluminum and wait months for it to be delivered, Goldman, which is keen to keep its cash machines humming and the London Metal Exchange (LME), the world’s benchmark industrial metals market, which critics accuse of lax oversight.

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