Goldman Fights UniCredit for Prized Oktoberfest Conference Slot

Goldman Fights UniCredit for Prized Oktoberfest
The UniCredit SpA logo sits on the roof of the company's headquarters in Rome, Italy. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will spar with UniCredit SpA over steins of Bavarian beer this autumn as they jostle to lure German equity investors to rival conferences in Munich during Oktoberfest.

When UniCredit quit its western European equities business on Nov. 14, Italy’s largest bank took another month to confirm that it would team up with Kepler Capital Markets SA to continue the annual conference it started in 2003. Both Goldman, along with partner Berenberg Bank, and Baader Bank AG had in the meantime announced similar events, leaving investors with three ways to spend their days before heading for the beer tents.

“Goldman and Berenberg as well as Baader have obviously opportunistically jumped on this fixed conference date in people’s diary in the wrong expectation that we would no longer host the conference,” said Christian Steffens, UniCredit’s co-head of global capital markets. “People have always enjoyed coming to Munich for the conference, as it is a nice place to be, especially during the Oktoberfest.”

The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to honor Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. This year’s festival, which runs from Sept. 22 through Oct. 7, will attract about 6 million revelers to the tents and halls set up by local breweries.

Economic Strength

More important for the conference organizers is that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, continues to buck a recession that’s gripping the region’s southern countries.

“At the moment the whole world is looking at Germany,” said Benon Janos, a Frankfurt-based managing director at Goldman, who is in charge of the conference in September.

Goldman and Hamburg-based Berenberg start their three-day “German Corporate Conference 2012” on Sept. 24, one day before their rivals. They have invited more than 100 companies, according to Janos, and 800 institutional investors are expected to attend.

“Until now, we didn’t have such an event and we wanted to keep this conference in Munich alive,” said Janos. “We will deliver a very good event this year, next year and the year after that and then we will see.”

UniCredit and Kepler, the French securities firm that now provides research on stocks in western Europe to the Italian bank’s customers, expect more than 100 company representatives and about 700 investors to attend their three-day conference, starting Sept. 25, said Steffens.

Hiring Organizers

Baader Bank, the German securities brokerage that is expanding its capital markets offerings, will invite investors to Munich’s BMW-Welt venue on the same days as the UniCredit event. Baader, based in Unterschleissheim near Munich, has hired Oliver Riedel, Karin Brinkmann and other people who previously helped arrange the event at UniCredit, said Nico Baader, a member of the management board and son of founder Uto Baader.

So far, 70 companies have confirmed their attendance and the bank is targeting 500 to 600 participants, Baader said.

“We provide a broad range from blue chips to small caps and, uniquely, Austrian companies as well,” said Baader. “We’re not here to do this once.”

“While for us, as a Munich-based investor, the Oktoberfest isn’t as much as an attraction as maybe for U.S. investors, we don’t mind so much having three conferences on exactly the same topic simultaneously,” said Stefan Degen, who helps manage about 36 billion euros ($48 billion) as head of equities at BayernInvest, the asset manager owned by Bayerische Landesbank in Munich. “We will simply decide where the most interesting presentations are being offered.”

Starting to Rebuild

UniCredit and Kepler will have to battle to attract participants after losing sales people to Baader and other rivals, said Degen. “Kepler is just starting to rebuild those relationships,” he said.

UniCredit can overcome the loss, said Steffens. Linking up with Kepler has added about 2,000 investor contacts from France, Spain, Benelux, Scandinavia and the U.S., he said.

“We’re confident that this year’s conference will become even broader in terms of investor participation than last year’s, when we counted 591 investors,” Steffens said “Companies want to see investors from all over the world at such a conference and we have the track record of being able to attract them to Munich.”

For some companies and investors, the choice will be easy.

“We will attend the Goldman/Berenberg conference as we haven’t been invited by the others, which don’t cover our stock,” said Claudia Gutjahr-Loeser, head of corporate communications and investor relations at German biotechnology company MorphoSys AG. “Generally it doesn’t make sense to try to accommodate three conferences at the same time.”