Skip to main content

Treasury to buy stakes in 'healthy' banks

As mentioned in our weekend "Features" post, the US Treasury recently announced its intention to buy direct equity ownership stakes in US banks.

Those plans come into clearer focus Monday, as Treasury official Neel Kashkari, speaking in Washington, offered a few details on this latest feature of the government's $700 billion bailout plan.

Bloomberg reports, "Treasury to invest in 'healthy' banks, Kashkari says":

"Neel Kashkari, the U.S. Treasury official overseeing the $700 billion rescue of the financial system, said government equity injections will be aimed at ``healthy'' firms.

``We are designing a standardized program to purchase equity in a broad array of financial institutions,'' Kashkari, who heads the department's Troubled Asset Relief Program, said in a speech in Washington. ``The equity purchase program will be voluntary and designed with attractive terms to encourage participation from healthy institutions.''

U.S. officials are hurrying to address frozen credit markets that led France, Germany and Spain to agree yesterday to commit $1.3 trillion to guarantee interbank loans and take equity stakes in banks. Buying shares of financial institutions has become the latest focus of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's rescue plan.

``While the U.S. tends to shy away from nationalizing or even partially nationalizing its financial institutions, it would appear that it has no choice but to follow suit,'' Win Thin, a senior currency analyst with Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York, said in a research note today."

More commentary on the evolving state of the bailout bill is offered in this accessible piece from CNN Money, "The bailout takes new form":

"Though it was not part of the initial proposal, the Treasury is using its authority from the bailout bill in order to buy up shares in banks on a voluntary basis. Though the Bush administration did not initially want the government to take equity stakes in private financial institutions, the Treasury determined that the deepening credit crisis necessitated more direct government intervention.

By buying up banks' stock, the government would directly inject much-needed capital into banks. The Treasury will only buy up shares of "healthy institutions," and will encourage participation by offering "attractive terms," according to Kashkari. The government hopes that the move will inspire banks to raise private capital as well, inspiring new confidence in the credit markets, so normal lending can resume.

But few details were offered, including criteria for a participating bank, what the bank will be offered in turn for participation and for how long the government will hold onto the equity stakes."

Reading all this, the question that quickly comes to mind is, "why would healthy banks even need such a rescue from the government?". Would any truly sound bank ever find itself in need of a government-directed (and taxpayer-funded) recapitalization?

With this latest move to take ownership stakes in the banks, it seems the US Treasury is stepping in to take the place of the Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs), many of whom have taken big hits on their recently soured investments in Western banks.

Now that the SWFs are smarting from those earlier investments, it seems the US and European governments think they will succeed where the others have failed. We'll see about that one...

Popular posts from this blog

Seth Klarman: Margin of Safety (pdf)

Welcome, readers! Signup for free email updates at the Finance Trends Newsletter . Update: PDF links removed due to DMCA notice. Please see our extensive Klarman book notes below. New visitors, please check the Finance Trends home page for all new posts. Here's something for anyone who has been trying to get a look at Seth Klarman's now famous, and out of print, 1991 investment book, Margin of Safety .  My knowledge of value investing is pretty much limited to what I've read in Ben Graham's The Intelligent Investor (the book which originally popularized the investment concept of a "Margin of Safety"), so check out the wisdom from Seth Klarman and other investing greats in our related posts below. You can also go straight to Ronald Redfield's Margin of Safety book notes .    Related posts: 1. Seth Klarman interviews and Margin of Safety notes     2. Seth Klarman: Lessons from 2008 3. Investing Lessons from Sir John Templeton 4.

Slate profiles Victor Niederhoffer

Slate's recent profile of writer/speculator, Vic Niederhoffer has been getting some attention from traders and finance types in recent days. I thought we'd take a look at it here too, to offer up some possible educational value from Vic's experiences with trading and loss. Here's an excerpt from Slate's profile of Victor Niederhoffer : " I've enjoyed getting your e-mails. It sounds like you've thought a lot about being wrong. Well, the reason you contacted me, to call a spade a spade, is that I'm sort of infamous for having made a big, notorious, terrible error not once but twice in my market career. Let's talk about those errors. The first was your investment in the Thai baht, which pretty much wiped you out when the Thai stock market crashed in 1997. I made so many errors there it's pathetic. I made one of my favorite errors: "The mouse with one hole is quickly cornered." That is key. There are certain decisions you make in li

Clean Money - John Rubino: Book review

Clean Money by John Rubino 274 pages. Hoboken, New Jersey John Wiley & Sons. 2009. 1st Edition. The bouyant stock market environment of the past several years is gone, and the financial wreckage of 2008 is still sharp in our minds as a new year starts to unfold. Given the recent across-the-board-declines in global stock markets (and most asset classes) that have left many investors shell-shocked, you might wonder if there is any good reason to consider the merits of a hot new investment theme, such as clean energy. However, we shouldn't be too hasty to write off all future stock investments. After all, the market declines of 2008 may continue into 2009, but they may also leave interesting investment opportunities in their wake. Which brings us to the subject of this review. John Rubino, author and editor of GreenStockInvesting.com , recently released a new book on renewable energy and clean-tech investing entitled, Clean Money: Picking Winners in the Green Tech Boom . In Clean