Paulson Asset Management, LLC
So now the Treasury has a massive $700 billion bailout plan on the table. The idea is to create a government agency to deal with bad mortgage related debt, sort of like how the Resolution Trust Corp. (RTC) dealt with $394 billion in assets of failed banks during the S&L Crisis in the 80s.
You probably recall how regulators would swoop in on troubled banks, close them down and turn their assets over to the RTC, who would then dispose of them, sometimes for pennies on the dollar.
It was like free money for some savvy investors as they were able to buy assets on the cheap from the RTC. Still, many shareholders in failed banks like Silverado and Lincoln never recovered their money.
That’s got me curious as to how Paulson Asset Management, LLC (PAM) will deal with the mortgage-related assets it takes on. Clearly, some of those assets, like the credit default swap derivatives, are essentially worthless and will remain so.
However, there’s certainly a fair amount of mortgage-backed securities that have been written down to near-zero out of necessity, because no one will buy them now, but will probably regain some value in the future.
After all, why else would PIMCO’s Bill Gross say that he’s expecting to be called by PAM (Paulson Asset Management), to help manage the mortgage-backed assets it buys?
Economic Socialism: Puttin It Mildly
My point here is that we’re seeing much more than economic socialism, or the economic communism that Jim Rogers alluded to recently. This is more akin to Valdimir Putin’s hostile takeover of Yukos Oil.
Politics aside, there’s a profit-motive here. Think about it. The Fed and Treasury lent AIG $85 billion. AIG can either pay up (with 11% interest) or the Fed and Treasury get an 80% stake in the company. And from what I understand, AIG has a matter of days to come up with the loot.
At $5 a share, AIG is worth around $13 billion right now. At the start of the year, it was worth around $130 billion. As of June 30, 2008, AIG had $67 billion in tangible assets, down from $95 billion a year earlier.
Obviously, those tangible assets are worth less than $67 billion now. Nobody will buy them.
But what will they be worth a year from now, after most of the bad debt out there has been exposed and investors can make informed decisions about what’s got value and what doesn’t?
That’s OUR $85 Billion
I suspect that PAM’s stake in AIG could be worth a decent sum in a few years. Same goes with whatever assets PAM’s $700 billion buyout fund targets.
It seems to me, since PAM is using taxpayer money to fund its investments, the American people should be considered shareholders. We should share in the spoils.
Now before you think this suggestion is like investing social security in the stock market, there’s a very important distinction here. For instance, PAM can change the rules anytime it wants to. Stock price going down? No problem. Just make it illegal to short.
The more I think about it this idea, the more I like it. And for the record, I have no problem with Bill Gross as the Chief Investment Officer.
What Will Congress Do?
Now I want to be clear about something. I might sound a little flippant with my suggestions here. But this financial mess is very serious. It’s a massive fraud, and the government’s bailout plan doesn’t mention even the slightest slap on the wrist for the offenders or deal with homeowners problems.
Of course, there will be new regulations. There always are. But they never seem to do what they’re intended to do.
As the panic from last week’s market rout eases a little, and Bernanke and Paulson testify before Congress, Congress seems to be taking a harder line on the bailout plan, which is good.
Because, again, I want to know how PAM intends to dispose of billions in impaired assets.
And what’s more, Bernanke apparently wants to buy impaired assets from banks at a premium to current value, and hasn’t really talked about what he’ll do with them. That’s a problem.
If you remember the S&L Crisis, you’ll recall that there was a lot of criticism as to how the RTC disposed of its assets. Much of it was real estate, and in less than desirable markets, as well. Still, many felt that the RTC sold at prices that were way too low to compensate investors for their risk. (The New York Times reported about a resort with an $8 million book value selling for 695K.)
If Bernanke and PAM buy impaired assets at a premium with no realistic plan of how to monetize them, then they’re simply seeking to recapitalize failing banks at taxpayers expense. If so, this PAM shareholder has to vote no.
So what Should We Do?
I’d tell you to call your Congressmen, but they’re busy. Plus, judging by the tone of yesterday’s Q&A following Bernanke and Paulson’s testimony, I’d say they’ve got the message. Taxpayers are not wild about bailing out banks.
Why not expand the powers of the FHA and let Americans with mortgage problems refinance to a lower rate? At least that would address the “real” problem, which is default and foreclosure.
As far as investing goes, my advice hasn’t changed from last week:
“There’s one asset class I like a lot right now. It’s something of a defensive play, mainly due to the high dividend yield. But there’s also a case to be made for some capital appreciation.
It’s MLPs. Master Limited Partnerships. These companies own and operate pipelines for oil and natural gas, mostly in the Southwestern U.S. These companies have pretty stable revenue streams because they sell capacity in advance. MLPs are required to pay 95%+ of their income in dividends to maintain their tax exempt status. And they rely on credit to expand their operations, and hence, revenue.
Many MLPs are currently trading at 52-week lows. I believe this is because their ability to expand has been impaired by the banking liquidity problems. But these companies have stable revenue and they pay dividends of 6-11%. That alone makes them a good place to park your cash until the markets get better.
Plus, as the lending situation improves over the next few months, you could see as much as 30% gains for the stocks as investors anticipate revenue expansion.”
Here’s the link I posted last week to get my favorite MLPs. Most of these stocks have jumped 10+% since lows last Thursday.
Big Idea Investor
09-24-2008 3:43 PM
Filed under: Growth Report, Ian Wyatt, short, Fed, Bernanke, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, jim rogers, paulson, MLP, AIG, Silverado, PIMCO, Putin, Lincoln, Treasury, Yukos, RTC, Bill Gross