Goldman Sachs Group sought regulatory approval to buy a majority stake in its investment banking joint venture in China, following rivals that include UBS Group and setting the stage for eventually gaining full control.
Goldman applied to boost its stake in Goldman Sachs Gao Hua Securities Co. to 51% from 33%, a spokesman said Wednesday. Beijing Gao Hua Securities Co., controlled by businessman Fang Fenglei and Legend Holdings, currently owns 67% of the JV, which focuses on equity and debt capital markets and mergers advisory.
Taking full control of its China business would bring the New York-based firm closer to former CEO Lloyd Blankfein's vision of being "one Goldman" in all markets. Goldman plans to eventually move employees and businesses from Beijing Gao Hua into Goldman Sachs Gao Hua, said a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified.
While Goldman doesn't hold a stake in Beijing Gao Hua, it has been negotiating with Fang for years over how to structure its business in China once regulators permit overseas firms to take majority stakes in local JVs. That milestone finally arrived last year, and competitors including UBS and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. have already moved to take advantage.
Beijing Gao Hua focuses on sales and trading and investment management. Folding its operations into Goldman Sachs Gao Hua would give the U.S. firm a footprint in China that more closely resembles how it operates in other markets. China has the world's second-largest capital market, underscoring its appeal to overseas players.
China said last month it will bring forward plans to remove foreign ownership limits on financial companies to 2020, as it speeds up efforts to open the $44 trillion industry to international competition.