Archive for the ‘Asset Management’ Category

Understanding SEC’s Money Market Reform Proposal (Release 33-9408)

Monday, July 1st, 2013

A money market fund’s purpose is to provide investors with low risk/low return, easily accessible cash-equivalent assets.The fund holds an objective of maintaining a NAV (net asset value) of $1 per share. MMF portfolios are comprised of short-term securities representing “high quality, liquid debt and monetary instruments”.

Totaling approximately $2.6 trillion in assets, corporations often heavily rely on the funds as a source of short-term financing in their day to day business. MMFs drew initial interest from the SEC when the oldest money fund – and one of the biggest – the Reserve Primary Fund, dropped 3% in 2008 causing investors to panic. In the days following this decline the fund experienced investor withdrawals of over $300 billion. Bringing the short-term credit market to a halt, corporations were stymied in their efforts to pay critical expenses such as payroll, etc.

Since this panic, the SEC has been pressed to reform the rules under which these funds operate (despite ire from the mutual fund industry).

Intent on mitigating the financial system from economic shocks, the SEC released a milestone marking proposal detailing new rules for the industry.

The release outlining the reform puts forth two proposals. The first proposal calls to institute a floating NAV policy allowing MMF shares to fluctuate on prime institutional funds thus removing the special exemptions that used to allow MMFs to use amortized-cost accounting and rounding to maintain stable NAVs. By floating NAVs, funds are able to destigmatize changes in fund value and train investors to understand fluctuations. (It should be noted that retail and governments MMFs are not to be affected)

The second proposal is to limit redemptions or charge fees for full redemptions on MMF holdings. This proposal is designed to mitigate MMF’s susceptibility to heavy redemption during panic, improve MMF’s ability to manage and mitigate potential contagion from high levels of redemption, preserve maximum benefits of MMFs for investors and increase the transparency of risk in these funds.

Even with floating NAVs, volatility is expected to be minimal, yet it is still to be understood how these reforms could affect the industry. Comments have been made suggesting complications with overnight sweep accounts, gains/losses reporting in switchover from fixed NAVs, etc.

It is important to note that this is in fact just a proposal and is yet to be heavily weighed in upon by the money fund industry. Critics worry reform could press more investors to pull out of the market as it has already experienced a $1.3 trillion dollar decline since 2008. SEC commissioners will most likely vote on the proposal later this year.

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Overview of Brazilian Investment Banks – Market Realist

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

According to Market Realist’s Emerging Market’s Analyst:

In a previous article we reviewed the main Brazilian Retail banks to give investors in EWZ some background on MSCI Brazil Index’s 25% exposure to the Brazilian financial sector.  This article will focus on the domestic investment banks.

Santander and HSBC occupy the #6 and #7 spots in the Top 10 Brazilian Banks by assets, with shares of 8% and 3% respectively.  Other major foreign banks such as Citi, J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse and Deustche Bank are small market players in the retail banking arena, each with shares between 0.5% and 1% of the total banking assets.

While most of these banks are not leaders in the Brazilian retail banking landscape, all these foreign banks are part of the top 10 banks by investment banks by fees for Latin America (consisting mainly of Brazil and Mexico).  This classification includes fees for M&A (merger and acquisitions advisory), loans (credit lending), DCM (debt capital markets, i.e., bonds) and ECM (Equity Capital Markets, i.e. stock issuance).

The local Brazilian investment banks

The only local banks within the top 10 investment banks are BTG Pactual (leading the table), Itau BBA, and Santander BBI.  The table below shows the league table rankings as of Aug 2012:

BTG Pactual has an interesting story and has been referred to by some as the Goldman Sachs of Latin American or its “tropical version”.  The bank was sold by Brazilian investment banker Andre Esteves to UBS in 2006 for US$3.1bn when he was just 37 years old.  Three years later he bought it back for USD2.5bn when UBS hit a rough patch during the financial crisis.  Pactual currently has a joint venture with Caixa Economica Federal that jointly owns Banco PanAmericano.  This is BTG Pactual’s first acquisition of a retail bank.

Itau BBA, the investment bank arm of Itau Unibanco Holding, was created in 2002 when Itau acquired Banco BBA-Creditanstalt in 2002.  In 2011 it achieved third place in the Top 10 Brazilian Investment Banks table; as of August it was placing fourth for 2012.  Earlier this year it received the Best Investment Bank for Brazil 2012 Award by Euromoney.

Bradesco BBI was #7 in the Top 10 table for 2011 and so far this year its holding the #8 spot, followed closely by foreign banks Santander and HSBC.  Earlier this year it also received the Best Investment Bank – Brazil 2012 Award, this one was awarded by Global Finance.

For more information, please visit Market Realist’s emerging market section: Emerging Markets

Emerging market ETFs are over 50% concentrated in Asian equities – Market Realist

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

According to Market Realist’s emerging markets analyst:

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index covers the performance of 817 emerging market stocks across 21 emerging markets. The index covers 85% of each country’s free float adjusted market cap, meaning it takes into account only the publicly available shares, as opposed to the total issued shares. In emerging markets it is common for companies to have low free-float percentages (e.g., in Latin American values as low as 10-15% are observable) as many family owners own a large portion of the outstanding stock, making it unavailable to the general public. Naturally countries with larger more and developed stock markets have larger market capitalizations and larger free-float percentages, and therefore end up having the lion’s share of the index.

The chart below shows the concentration for the top 5 countries in the index. China, South Korea and Taiwan account for 44% of the index. Approximately 10% more is accounted by the remaining Asian countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. Latin America accounts for c. 20% (driven by Brazil) and Africa for less than 10%. The two main ETFs tracking this index, Vanguard’s Emerging Markets ETF (VMO) and iShares Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) suffer from the same bias.

MSCI states that it frequently revises the composition of the index based “extensive discussions with the investment community”, though South Korea is still part of the index despite it is considered an “advanced economy” by the IMF and CIA, a “high income economy” by the World Bank, and a “developed market” by Dow Jones, FTSE and S&P. Additionally, Taiwan is considered an advanced economy by the IMF. Coincidentally, South Korea and Taiwan make up over 26% of the index.

The graph below shows the share by country grouped by regions for VMO, which closely tracks the MSCI EM Index:

For more information please see the full article link: Emerging market ETFs are over 50% concentrated in Asian equities

Avoid the “contango” of commodity ETFs, as it can lower returns – Market Realist

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

According to Market Realist’s commodities analyst:

Commodity ETFs like USO and UNG often do not track the performance of the underlying indices due to contango, or the market state where the price of an energy futures contract trades above the expect spot price at maturity. Since commodity ETFs purchase commodity futures contracts to mimic spot performance, they fall victim to contango as they roll their futures positions from one month to the next.

For example, an investor should be able to see clearly that during West Texas intermediate (WTI) crude oil’s recovery from January 2009 to April 2011, from $35/barrel to $112/barrel (+320%), USO, the United States Oil Fund LP ETF, only rose from $24 to $45 (87.5%).


The worst commodity performer in terms of contango is natural gas, represented by the UNG ETF. The roll cost for UNG can be greater than 8% per year, which can cause steep losses for the retail investor, despite a price appreciation in the underlying commodity. In the graph below, you can see that the value of the ETF has fallen 96.4% in 4 years, while natural gas prices have only fallen about 79%. This has been terrible for investors trying to capture the price movements of natural gas.

Hedge Fund Pershing Square’s 1st Quarter 2012 Letter (Bill Ackman)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Bill Ackman, legendary activist investor recently published its 1st quarter investment letter. The fund has performed strongly to date, with 9.3% returns and has large holdings in Canadian Pacific, General Growth Properties, Citigroup, and J.C. Penney. If he still owns them, the latter two companies may create some trouble for his firm in the future.

In this investor letter, Ackman discusses the idea of time arbitrage, which is taking advantage of forced sellers for the benefit of long term profit. This is because stocks are often more volatile than their underlying businesses, and few firms and individuals can stomach volatility.

He also discusses that private equity portfolio companies, because of their higher implied leverage, have much more volatile returns, but unfortunately, you do not see a mark-to-market as you do in publicly traded equities.

Enjoy the letter below:

Pershing-Square-Q1-2012


Italian 10 year Yield Rises Above 7.4%, Country Theoretically Unable to Fund Itself at These Levels (Bankrupt), Prime Minister Offers to Resign

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

November 9, 2011: After Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi offered to resign yesterday, the credit markets almost sighed in relief. But today, markets were punched in the jugular as LCH.Clearnet increased margin requirements on Italian bonds. Margins were raised because 10 year credit spread exceeded 450 bps, the same point at which Clearnet raised margins on the bonds of other peripheral countries in Europe.
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The pressure is certainly on the ECB and Italy now to find a solution to this debt crisis, as Italy is too large to be bailout out. Yesterday, known for his sex scandals and political corruption, Prime Minister Berlusconi was pressured to leave his post because Italian yields were creeping above 6.5%. According to the Times, “In the end, it was not the sex scandals, the corruption trials against him or even a loss of popular consensus that appeared to end Mr. Berlusconi’s 17 years as a dominant figure in Italian political life. It was, instead, the pressure of the markets — which drove Italy’s borrowing costs to record highs — and the European Union, which could not risk his dragging down the euro and with it the world economy. On Wednesday, yields on 10-year Italian government bonds — the price demanded by investors to loan Italy money — edged above 7 percent, the highest level since the adoption of the euro 10 years ago and close to levels that have required other euro zone countries to seek bailouts.”
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Currently, the Italian 10 year yield has exceeded 7.4%, and the 2 year note has risen more than 10 year rate. At this point, Italy is theoretically unable to fund itself and could theoretically be bankrupt. The margin call on bonds due between seven and 10 years was raised by five percentage points to 11.65%, for bonds due between 10 years and 15 years it was raised by five percentage points to 11.80%, while for bonds that mature in 15 years and 30 years the margin call was raised by five percentage points to 20%. The changes come into effect Nov. 9 and will have an impact on margin calls from Nov. 10, the French arm of LCH.Clearnet said.

Defined Benefit Plans & Defined Contribution Plans (CFA III) – 2

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

In our previous blog on pensions, we discussed defined benefit plans, defined contribution plans, cash balance plans, and profit sharing plans. We discussed funded status, ABO, PBO, future liability, retired lives, and active lives.

It is vital for the CFA III curriculum to understand the difference between defined contribution plans and defined benefit plans in more detail:

In a defined benefit plan:

  • The employee receives periodic payments beginning at retirement based on an eligibility date formula
  • Does not bear the risk of portfolio performance or market movements
  • Receives stable retirement income
  • Usually faces a vesting period and faces a restricted withdrawal of funds
  • There is an adverse effect on diversification because both job and pension are linked to employer health
  • Employee is subject to early termination risk if employee is terminated prior to retirement
  • The employer is responsible for managing the plan assets to meet pension liabilities
  • The employer thus takes investment risk
  • Benefits are determined by stated criteria usually associated with years of service and salary at retirement
  • Pension benefits are a liability
  • Regulated by ERISA and state governments

In a defined contribution plan:

  • The employee bears all the investment risk
  • Legally owns all personal contributions, and owns all sponsor contributions once vested
  • DC plan lowers taxable income
  • Employee must make all investment decisions for his/her retirement
  • Employee must decide on asset allocation and risk tolerance
  • There is restricted withdrawal of funds
  • Employee owns plans assets and can move assets to other plans
  • The employer must offer employees a sufficient variety of investment vehicles
  • The only financial liability is making contributions to the employee account
  • Has lower liquidity requirements
  • Has fewer regulations to deal with, but is usually required to have an IPS that addresses how plan will help employees meet objectives and constraints
  • Defined contribution plans also come in 2 forms, participant-directed and sponsor-directed (profit sharing)
  • In a profit sharing plan, the employer decides the investments

A plan is considered qualified in the U.S. if it meets federal and state tax laws for retirement funds.

Defined benefit plan objectives include:

  • Returns: To have pension assets generate returns sufficient to cover liabilities
  • Return requirement depends on funded status and contributions based on accrued benefits
  • Also determined by future pension contributions: return levels can be calculated to eliminate the need for contributions to plan assets, contribution minimization goal more realistic
  • Pension income should be recognized in the income statement
  • Plan Surplus: Indicates cushion provided by plan assets to meet liabilities
  • Greater the surplus, greater ability to take risk
  • Underfunded means decreased ability to take risk
  • Risk: Common risk exposure measured by correlation between firm’s operating characteristics and pension asset returns
  • Lower the correlation, higher the risk tolerance
  • Higher the correlation, lower the risk tolerance
  • Financial Condition: Can be measured by debt-to-asset or other leverage ratios (debt-to-cap, debt-to-EBITDA), using sponsor’s balance sheet
  • Lower debt ratios imply better ability to tolerate risk
  • Higher debt ratios imply lower ability to tolerate risk
  • Profitability: Can be represented by current or pro former financials
  • Workforce: Age of the workforce and ratio of active to retired lives is a strong indicator of performance
  • Usually the younger the workforce, the greater the ratio of active to retired, increased ability to tolerate risk
  • When older, lower rate of active to retired and higher risk
  • Plan Features: Some offer option of either retiring early or receiving lump-sum payments instead of a retirement annuity

Defined benefit plan constraints include:

  • Liquidity: Pension plans receives contributions and payments to beneficiaries…any outflow represents liquidity constraint.
  • Liquidity is affected by the number of retired lives; greater the #, the more liquidity is needed
  • The amount of sponsor contributions; smaller the contributions, the greater the liquidity need
  • Plan features; early retirement features would increase liquidity need
  • Time horizon: mainly determined by whether the plan is a going concern and workforce age and ratio of active to retired lives
  • Legal & regulatory: ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act regulates defined benefit plans, above state and local pension law
  • Pension fund assets should be invested for the sole benefit of the participant, not the sponsor
  • Pension funds have to exercise diligence before alternative asset classes can be added to asset base
  • Pension plans may prohibit investment in traditional asset choices like investments in defense industry, firms that produce alcoholic beverages, or firms that have a reputation for being destructive to environment

Understanding Pension Plans (CFA III) – 1

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

One of the largest investors in hedge funds, mutual funds, and alternative asset classes, including private equity, timber, and commodities is the pension fund.  As an analyst or a portfolio manager, it is essential to understand the purpose of pension plans, how they are structured, and how they allocate risk.

A pension plan is a portfolio of assets (securities, hard assets) that can support future retirement benefits.  The promise to pay these benefits in the future is a key responsibility of the plan sponsor.

The plan sponsor is the company, non-profit, or government agency that funds the pension plan through periodic payments.

The plan participants are the individuals who receive the pension benefits as they are paid out from the pension plan.

There are also four main types of pension plans, the defined contribution plan, the profit-sharing plan, the defined benefit plan, and the cash balance plan:

1) Defined Contribution Plan: is a pension plan whose retirement payout expectations are framed by contributions to the plan by the plan sponsor.  The liability to the sponsor is only the plan contribution, not the benefit received by the plan participants.

2) Profit Sharing Plan: is a defined contribution plan, where the contributions to the plan are determined by the plan sponsor’s profitability.

3) Defined Benefit Plan: is a pension plan that is framed by the benefits paid to plan participants instead of by the contributions.  Benefits are calculated by taking to account years of service, expected return, expected salary, and other factors that will be explained later.

4) Cash Balance Plan: is a defined pension plan that maintains individual account records for plan participants.  This plan shows each member’s accrued benefits and manages accounts instead of an actual fund.

Funding

Funded Status: relationship between PV (present value) of the pension plan assets and the pension plan liabilities.

Underfunded: PV (present value) of pension plan assets here is less than the PV of the pension plan liabilities.  When plans are underfunded, the may require the sponsors to make special contributions to the plan in addition to regular contributions.

Fully Funded: PV (present value) of pension plan assets here is greater than or equal to the PV of the pension liabilities.  Sponsors can temporarily stop making contributions to the plan’s asset base when the PV of assets > PV of liabilities.

Surplus: difference between the PV of pension plan assets and the PV of pension plan liabilities.

Liabilities

Active lives: the number of plan participants who are not currently receiving pension payments and are still working to save for retirement.

Retired lives: the number of plan participants currently receiving benefits (retirees).

Accumulated Benefit Obligation (ABO): is the total PV of pension liabilities to date, assuming no further accumulation of benefits.

Projected Benefit Obligation (PBO): (PBO) is the ABO  plus projections of future employee compensation increases.  The PBO is the pension liability for a going concern and is the liability figure used in calculating funding status.

Total Future Liability: is the measure of pension liability that is the most comprehensive, because it takes into account not only changes in workforce and inflation in benefits, but salary increases as well.  Total future liabilty is used when setting long term objectives and goals for the plan within the IPS (Investment Policy Statement).

For graphics and links, please visit the Leverage Academy blog. Syndications may not capture the entire article.  LA also reaches thousands through its syndications.  If you wish to write an article or contribute, please feel free to e-mail the address below (Tom).

Please visit http://www.leverageacademy.com and check out our curriculum tab to sign up for our intensive investment banking, private equity, global macro and sales & trading courses in Boston & New York.  Classes will also be held online, live through video feeds at these locations.  Questions?  Feel free to e-mail thomas.r[at]leverageacademy.com with your inquiries or call our corporate line.

Glencore Considering $19.5 Billion Bid for ENRC…

Monday, June 13th, 2011

You thought you had heard the last of Swiss based Glencore, the famed diversified commodities trading firm, with the news of its multi-billion dollar IPO.  Now rumors of a nearly $20 billion takeover?  Looks like Glencore’s management team is taking advantage of its new currency.  According to ENRC’s 3 founders, Alexander Mashkevitch, Patokh Chodiev and Alijan Ibragimov, who control 45% of the company, Glencore’s CEO recent discussed a possible merger.  ENRC, a Kazakhi miner, trades at a 15% discount to its peers, using a trailing P/E multiple, and is down almost 30% this year.

HISTORY OF GLENCORE

Glencore, headquartered in Baar, Switzerland, is the world’s largest commodities trading firm, which a 60% market share in the trading of zinc, and a 3% market share in the trading of crude oil.  The company is also the biggest shipper of coal in the world.  Glencore’s 485 traders own and run the company today.  It was formed by a management buyout of Marc Rich & Co AG in 1974.  Marc Rich, now a billionaire commodities trader at the time was charged with tax evasion and illegal business dealings, fleeing to Iran.  Years later, he was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

In 1994, after failing to corner the zinc market, the company lost $172 million and nearly went bankrupt, forcing Rich to sell his share in the company back to the firm, which was renamed Glencore.  It was run by Rich’s inner circle, including Willy Strothotte and Ivan Glasenberg.

Over the years, Glencore has also been accused of illegal dealings with rogue states, including the USSR, Iran, and Iraq (under Hussein).  It has a history of breaking UN embargoes to profit from corrupt regimes.

The company owns stakes in Rusal, Chemoil, Xstrata, Minara Resources, PASAR, Evergreen Aluminum, Katanga Mining, Windalco, OAO Russneft, and many other firms.

INITIAL PUBLIC OFFERING

With its initial public offering weeks ago, Glencore was valued at about $60 billion, and raised about $10 billion.  Each of the 485 traders received average payouts of $100 million through the flotation.

I highly recommend reading, “Secret Lives of Marc Rich.”

Martin J. Whitman on Distressed Investing – A Legend and Founder of Third Avenue

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Over the past two years, I have become a staunch follower of Martin J. Whitman, a legend in deep value investing and founder of Third Avenue. I have read his book, Distress Investing twice now, and wanted to share some excerpts with you. Hopefully you will pick up a copy too!

According to Whitman, there have been three major trends that have shaped the credit markets since the innovation of the high yield (junk bond) in the late seventies through 2008:

1)      Financial Innovation

2)      New Laws & Regulations

3)      2007-2008 Financial Meltdown

1)      New credit instruments, capital structures, and financial institutions grossly inflated the size of the credit and derivatives markets from the 1980s to 2008.  The shadow banking system (SIVs, SPEs) and securities this system issued like CLOs were part of this trend.  Credit default swaps eventually allowed banks and hedge funds to make highly levered bets against issuers, directly influencing market perceptions about credit worthiness.

New primary and secondary markets improved liquidity for below investment grade issues in the late 80s and early 90s.  Leveraged loans that one would have paid 40 cents for in the 1980s, investors were paying 85-90 cents for in the early 90s through the 2007/2008 meltdown.  Almost 70% of leveraged loans were held by nonbank institutions like hedge funds, CDOs, CLOs, etc.

2)      After Gramm-Leach Bliley passed in 1999, commercial banks also began to act more like underwrites, completely eschewing credit risks, and collecting fees on originating loans, bonds, and ABS.  Securitization allowed for the transfer of risk off of bank balance sheets.

BACPA, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 imposed new time limits for filing a plan of reorganization (POR) and shortened the amount of time required for business bankruptcy filings.  It additionally shortened the time over which investors could decide to curtail payments on property and reject non-residential real estate losses.  Finally, it curtailed executive pay for firms under Ch. 11 and enhanced vendor rights, so trade vendors were pari passu with the unsecured creditors.

Many of these innovations drove litigation costs so high, that today most of the reorganizations done today are prepackaged or prenegotiated filings.

History

According to Whitman, since 1950, credit market debt has grown at 4.1% in real terms, while GDP grew at 2.7%.  In the 1970s, more of the below investment grade debt was classified as “fallen angel,” and was originally investment grade credit.  Originally issued high yield bonds, which were unsecured and had much less restrictive covenants than loans, were quite rare.  They took the form of Rule 144A securities (unregistered with the SEC).

Junk bonds were unsecured claims usually subordinate to senior loans and senior unsecured debt.  But by the 1980s, they were the preferred security for driving LBO and M&A transactions.  By 1989, high yield debt consisted of 20%+ of the non-financial bond universe. (to be ctnd…)

Cheers, Tom Rendon