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Goldman Sachs: With friends like these...

Goldman Sachs promotes itself as the company's friend, saying it prefers to advise clients on friendly acquisitions. So why has it pitched into three hostile takeovers this year? Not just because times and markets have changed. Michelle Celarier reports.

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Goldman Sachs has long had a reputation for refusing to represent clients in hostile takeovers. Particularly during the 1980s, when raiders roamed about looking for easy corporate targets, this policy allowed Goldman to develop strong bonds with clients who thought they need never worry about its using confidential information against them.

But this is a new era, in which hostile takeovers are more strategic than financial. Today's deals are undertaken by corporations, not individual players, and are viewed as more brutal, with the stakes higher than ever. And hostile deals are becoming more acceptable. Investment bankers say those firms that don't suggest hostile approaches as an option for their clients aren't doing their job - and they might end up losing business as a result.

Goldman seems to be adjusting. During the past six months, the firm has engaged in three hostile takeover attempts, helping take it to the top of the M&A league tables in the US and worldwide. Its role in these takeover battles leads to speculation that there is a change of policy. "Goldman still like to say they don't do hostiles," says one competitor, "but if they think they can get away with it, they will.

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