Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Bank Dilution Looms

Investors in financial shares have fared well this year as almost all are significantly higher than their March lows. Those that bought shares near the lows have obviously fared better than the original owners. But the time has come to be wary. Dilution looms, again, on the horizon.

Banks have had ready access to capital this year as they attempt to work through their myriad mistakes. First, the Government provided needed support, then hungry investors started lining up to buy financial secondary offerings. The result was the same: loans were written off, capital depleted, new capital acquired, and original investors diluted. Painful only for the original owners.

While mortgage and credit card loan delinquencies are still at record levels, commercial real estate lending was poorly underwritten and is now showing serious weakness, another capital consuming issue is raising its head. On January 1, 2010, FAS167 will take effect unless delayed. The effect will be that banks must set aside additional capital to support off balance sheet credit card receivables and other securitizations. Whether or not the assets are brought back on the balance sheet or not, more capital must be found to support the potential risk of implied recourse. The big credit card issurers, JPM,C,WFC,BAC,COF, to varing degrees, will be affected. Since current capital isn't plentiful, they will sell more shares and dilute the current base.

Several days ago, First National Nebraska, a moderate sized regional bank with a large credit card operation, filed to sell $250 million of new common and preferred securities. The major reason given for the decision was the need to support off balance sheet credit card securitizations. The decision to sell new shares was a difficult one for First National as it is owned, almost exclusively, by one family. They felt the need, and pressure, to dilute themselves to comply with FAS167. What do you think the professional, non-owner, managers will do? Yes, sell new shares to whom ever will buy them, Government or public.

Setting aside concerns about the remaining potential loan losses and adequacy of loan loss reserves, capital raising is coming again to the banks courtesy of the accountants and transparency. Bank shares will be worth less in 2010.

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