Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Endgame Nears For Fannie and Freddie

BY JONATHAN R. LAING

IT MAY BE CURTAINS SOON FOR THE MANAGEMENTS and shareholders of beleaguered housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It is growing increasingly likely that the Treasury will recapitalize Fannie and Freddie in the months ahead on the taxpayer's dime, availing itself of powers granted it under the new housing bill signed into law last month. Such a move almost certainly would wipe out existing holders of the agencies' common stock, with preferred shareholders and even holders of the two entities' $19 billion of subordinated debt also suffering losses. Barron's first raised the possibility of a government takeover of Fannie and Freddie in a March 10 cover story, "Is Fannie Mae Toast?"

Heaven knows, the two government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, both need resuscitation. Soaring mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures have led the companies to gush red ink for the past four quarters, and their managements concede the outlook is even grimmer well into next year. Shares of Fannie Mae (ticker: FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) have lost around 90% of their value in the past year, with Fannie now trading at $7.91, and Freddie at $5.88.

Similarly, the balance sheets of both companies have been destroyed. On a fair-value basis, in which the value of assets and liabilities is marked to immediate-liquidation value, Freddie would have had a negative net worth of $5.6 billion as of June 30, while Fannie's equity eroded to $12.5 billion from a fair value of $36 billion at the end of last year. That $12.5 billion isn't much of a cushion for a $2.8 trillion book of owned or guaranteed mortgage assets.

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Barrons put a nail into the coffin

"It is growing increasingly likely that the Treasury will recapitalize Fannie and Freddie in the months ahead on the taxpayer's dime, availing itself of powers granted it under the new housing bill signed into law last month. Such a move almost certainly would wipe out existing holders of the agencies' common stock, with preferred shareholders and even holders of the two entities' $19 billion of subordinated debt also suffering losses.

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U.S. likely to recapitalize Fannie, Freddie: report
Sun Aug 17, 2008 5:49pm EDT

“The report called an equity injection by the government a quasi-nationalization -- without having to put the agencies' liabilities on the U.S. balance sheet, and thus doubling the U.S. debt.”

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury is growing increasingly likely to recapitalize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the months ahead on the taxpayer's dime, Barron's reported in its August 18 edition.

The weekly financial newspaper said that such a move could wipe out existing holders of the agencies' common stock, with preferred shareholders and even holders of the two entities' $19 billion of subordinated debt also suffering losses.

An insider in the Bush administration told Barron's that Fannie and Freddie "are being jawboned" by the Treasury Department and their new regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), to raise more equity.

But government officials don't expect the agencies to succeed, Barron's reported.

If the government-sponsored enterprises fail to raise fresh capital, the administration is likely to mount its own recapitalization, with Treasury infusing taxpayer money into the agencies, according to the Barron's source.

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