Destroyer of Ignorance
The CDS auction today left over 90% exposure on Lehman Bros. ... that's not goona make anyone happy.
Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Sellers of credit-default protection on bankrupt Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. would be forced to pay holders 90.25 cents on the dollar under initial results of an auction, setting up the biggest-ever payout in the $55 trillion market.
Preliminary results of the auction to determine the size of the settlement on Lehman credit-default swaps set an initial value of 9.75 cents on the dollar for the debt, according to Creditfixings.com, a Web site run by auction administrators Creditex Group Inc. and Markit Group Ltd. A final price is scheduled to be announced at 2 p.m. New York time.
Based on the results, sellers of protection may need to make cash payments of about $270 billion, BNP Paribas SA strategist Andrea Cicione in London said. The potential payout is higher than investors anticipated, based on trading in Lehman debt, and caused the bonds to fall. The bonds fell to about 9.5 cents on the dollar today. They traded at an average 13 cents yesterday, indicating a payout of 87 cents was expected.
``The bottom line is that the final recovery will be below current market prices,'' said Tim Brunne credit analyst UniCredit SpA in Munich. ``Possibly far below.''
No one knows exactly how much is at stake because there's no central exchange or system for reporting trades. It's that lack of transparency that has increased the reluctance of financial institutions to do business with each other, exacerbating the global credit crisis and prompting calls for regulation of the market. More than 350 banks and investors signed up to settle credit-default swaps tied to Lehman.
The list of participants includes Newport Beach, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co., manager of the world's largest bond fund, Chicago-based hedge fund manager Citadel Investment Group LLC and American International Group Inc., the New York-based insurer taken over by the government, according to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association in New York.
Hedge funds, insurance companies and banks typically buy and sell credit protection, which is used either to insure a bond against default or as a bet against the company's ability to pay its debt. The required payments may force some funds to dump assets, BNP Paribas's Cicione said.
``Banks can go to the Federal Reserve, or use the commercial paper market where it is still functioning'' to meet protection payments, said Cicione, who said a 5 cent recovery rate may lead to payments of about $285 billion. ``But fund managers or hedge funds, once they've used their cash, have only one option: to sell assets.''
The failures of Lehman, once the fourth-largest securities firm, and Seattle-based Washington Mutual Inc. as well as the government takeovers of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Iceland's biggest banks have provided the 10-year-old credit-default swaps market with its biggest test to date. The use of credit derivatives has grown more than 100-fold in the past seven years as investors began using the swaps to bet on companies' creditworthiness.
Credit-default swap indexes around the world soared today on concern the deepening credit crisis will trigger company and bank failures. The Markit CDX North America Investment Grade index, linked to 125 companies in the U.S. and Canada, jumped 14 basis points to 212 basis points as of 11:09 a.m. in New York, according to Barclays Capital.
Credit-default swaps are financial instruments that can be based on bonds and loans. They pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities or the cash equivalent should a borrower fail to adhere to its debt agreements.
Five-year credit-default swaps on Lehman rose as high as 790 basis points before the firm filed for bankruptcy, according to Phoenix Partners Group., a New York-based inter-dealer broker. A basis point on a credit-default swap contract protecting $10 million of debt from default for five years is equivalent to $1,000 a year.
Dealers earlier this week set values for bonds of Washington-based Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of McLean, Virginia. Sellers who signed up for the auction will pay 8.5 cents on the dollar at most because the government is backing the debt of the two largest mortgage-finance companies.
The Pimco Total Return Fund had written protection on $105.4 million face amount of Lehman debt as of June 30, according to regulatory filings. Pimco spokesman Mark Porterfield didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
A unit of Primus Guaranty Ltd., a Bermuda-based company that has sold more than $24 billion in credit-default swaps, said last month it guaranteed $80 million of Lehman debt. The firm sold protection on $215 million of Fannie and Freddie debt and $16.1 million on WaMu. Yesterday, it said it also had made bets of $68.2 million on Kaupthing Bank hf, which the Icelandic government seized.
Primus said last week it had $820 million in cash and liquid investments to meet claims on the contracts. The stock was halted from trading on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday after falling to 99 cents. The shares fell 10 cents, or 11 percent, to 80 cents at 11:41 a.m.
Collateralized debt obligations that sold credit-default protection may lose money as defaults erode their ability to withstand losses, said Byron Douglass, a strategist at Credit Derivatives Research LLC in Walnut Creek, California. He follows the market for CDOs that sold protection on Lehman debt.
The CDOs pool the swaps and then sell off pieces with varying risk.
Standard & Poor's has ratings on 1,889 CDOs that sold credit-default swap protection on Lehman, the New York-based ratings firm said last month. Pieces of 1,526 CDOs sold protection on Washington Mutual, S&P said. More than 1,200 made bets on both Fannie and Freddie.
The Icelandic banks that failed this week were also often included in CDOs created during 2006 and 2007, according to Sivan Mahadevan, a New York-based Morgan Stanley strategist.
To contact the reporters on this story: Shannon D. Harrington in New York at [email protected]; Neil Unmack in London [email protected]
Last Updated: October 10, 2008 12:11 EDT