Posts Tagged ‘CItigroup’

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


Soros Says the U.S. is Already in a Double Dip Recession – Defining Balance Sheet Recessions

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Soros recently asserted that Europe could be more dangerous to the global financial markets than the default of Lehman Brothers in 2008, because of the political stubbornness of European policy makers.   He has been saying this for over two years now, while government officials continue to ignore him, focusing instead on making bold statements and causing riots.  In a brilliant move, Soros returned investor capital at the end of July to avoid the eyes of the public.  I am sure he is now short sovereigns via CDS, currencies, and synthetic instruments, while he continues to donate to the poor in Eastern Europe like a modern day Robin Hood.  Since March, Italian CDS has more than doubled, and French and Belgian CDS spreads will continue to creep higher as the sovereign crisis persists.  How are Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal supposed to grow their way out of debt, as deficit cutting reduces European GDP growth to less than 1%?

The public doesn’t trust officials to make timely decisions to protect the EU.   The PIIGS (Ireland and Italy included) pose an insurmountable task for the region, as the combined nations have far greater GDP and net leverage than Germany, the only country that will be supporting the EFSF with a AAA rating. Italy itself has €1.2 trillion of debt, which is  more than Germany, and France may be downgraded in the next 6 months, which is evident in how much its CDS spread has widened over the past 2 months.  France also cannot print money like the United States, and certainly should have been downgraded beforehand, sharply decreasing the effectiveness of the stabilization facility in the EU. A French downgrade would not only endanger French banks, it would create counterparty risk for its U.S. partners as well.  Soros has already claimed that the U.S. is currently in a double dip recession, which I personally think to be true.

Both the majority of the EU and the United States are in a global double dip already not only because of policy mistakes, but due to unsustainable leverage, overspending, broken healthcare and education systems, and corrupt governments. Recent real estate, manufacturing, and confidence numbers, along with revisions down in the earnings of major metallurgical coal and transportation companies in developed countries support my thesis (look at tickers ANR, WLT).  Alpha Natural Resources recently cited a sharp decrease in coal demand for steel production in Asia, reflecting weakness in both its U.S. and ex-U.S. clients.  In the U.S., real estate usually contributes 15% to GDP growth, and it is showing no chance of recovering (HOV), as most sales over the past two years have been distressed sales driven by investors, not families or single buyers.  Developed economies are slowing down quickly, as elected officials argue over who is more important than the other.  The S&P 500 ex-dividends is at the same level it was in 1998, the FTSE MIB in Italy is down 30% on the year (40% from April), and the emerging market index (EEM) just broke its 2010 lows.  Many European financial institution equities are down 60%+ to date.  Markets are broken, as the CME has to raise margins every other day to bring down the prices of precious metals, which are rising in the face of fiat destruction and future inflation risk.  Poverty has reached 15% in the United States, unemployment is over 9.2%, underemployment is about 17%, and local government cuts have resulted in the layoffs of countless public employees, like the recent 3,000 teachers who were fired in Providence, Rhode Island.

There are 44 million people on food stamps in the United States, which is supposed to be the wealthiest nation, and the land of hope for many immigrants.  Over 30% of the U.S. population pays more than half their gross income on rent, since incomes (adjusting for inflation) have not increased since 2000.  With rents projected to increase 3-4% in metropolitan areas over the next year, even the educated poor may be driven out of cities or on to the streets. The land of hope? Why don’t you ask my hardworking university friends about hope, who are much more qualified than some of their U.S. peers, but cannot get jobs and improve the quality of our economy due to the difficulty of obtaining visas.  This country was built by immigrants, who are now blocked out of entering the nation. Teen unemployment also hit decade lows this past month.

According to New York-based Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI), which tracks some 20 large economies contributing about 80% of the world GDP and provides critical information about upturns and downturns of economic cycles to money managers, we will know within the next 60 days whether we are in a recession or not.  ECRI’s Lakshman Achuthan has been one of the most accurate forecasters for economic cycles over the past decade.   He argues that the 2008/2009 recession was different than the sharp recession of the 1980s, “This is very different than the early 1980s. The issues that ail the U.S. economy and the jobs market today are not things that result from nearby events. What we’re living through and dealing with now has been building for decades,” he says. “If you look at the data, you see that the pace of expansion has been stair-stepping down ever since the 1970s, on all counts — on production, how much can we produce, how many jobs can we create, how much money do we make, how much do we sell. These are all trending down.” In the deep recession of the 1980s, GDP growth was 5%+ coming out of it…our growth in Q111 was revised down to 0.4%, and will be less than 2% for the year. Don’t believe me? Check on your own.

“If we do have a double-dip recession, Achuthan says, the people who are already having trouble finding work and paying bills are already in a depression and that they “are going to suffer more.”  ”It poses massive problems for policymakers because a new recession automatically increases all of these expenditures out of the public sector, while at the same time dramatically decreasing all their revenue,” he says. “So there’s even less ability to help the people who are hurting the most.”

Although I am not a fan of Roubini for his sensationalist gloom and doom scenarios, he does do decent research and predicted a 60% chance of a double dip in the U.S. three weeks ago.  The United States is in a balance sheet recession, as the economist Richard Koo, a strategist at Nomura, predicted may happen back in 2009.   Most of the growth we have experienced has been the result of continued fiscal and monetary stimulus from the United States government over the past three years, as well as inventory restocking.  The biggest driver of this slow and painful recession is that more stringent underwriting standards for real estate lending and small business lending are slowing down aggregate demand and GDP growth.  Koo argues that once you have a balance sheet recession, people focus on paying down debt, making the situation much worse over time.   The government has to increase fiscal stimulus for the entire duration of the private credit contraction cycle to overcome private deleveraging.  Unfortunately war and internal conflict has made this impossible in the United States as our debt to GDP nears 100%. Since the private sector has moved away from profit maximization to debt minimization, newly generated savings and debt repayments enter the banking system but cannot leave the system due to a lack of borrowers.  The economy here will not and cannot enter self-sustaining growth until private sector balance sheets are repaired.

If the government tries to cut spending too aggressively in 2012-2013, Koo thinks that we would fall into the same trap President FDR fell into in 1937 and that Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto fell into in 1997.  The deflationary gap created by a lack of credit creation and fiscal stimulus “will continue to push the economy toward a contractionary equilibrium until the private sector is too impoverished to save any money.”  The economy will collapse again, and the second collapse will be worse than the first.  It will be difficult to convince people to change their behavior in this scenario.

In a typical recession, private sector balance sheets are not hurt very badly, and most still express profit maximizing behavior.  People borrow money and spend as interest rates are lowered.  In a balance sheet recession, consumers refuse to borrow even if rates are at 0%.  This results in asset prices collapsing and banking crises.  Banks then cannot lend into the private sector, and the government becomes the borrower of last resort, at extremely low rates, because banks don’t need to hold capital against government loans.  When people use money to pay down debt, they withdraw money from their bank accounts and pay it back to the banks, so both deposits and the money supply shrink, which actually caused the Great Depression.  For example, 88% of Obama’s tax rebates have been used to pay down debt.

Let me put it in perspective:

According to Koo, “The Board of Governors of the Fed in 1976 estimated that deposits lost in Depression-era bank closures and through increased hoarding of cash outside of the banking system explained just 15% of the almost $18 billion decline in deposits during the period. Meanwhile, bank lending to the private sector plunged 47%, or by almost $20 billion, from 1929 to 1932. The conventional wisdom is that lending fell because banks panicked in response to dwindling reserves and forcibly called in loans. But that same Fed study shows that bank reserves did not actually fall during that period, when borrowings from the Fed are taken into account. In addition, a survey of almost 3,500 manufacturers, undertaken in 1932 by the National Industrial Conference Board, showed that fewer than 15% of the firms surveyed reported any difficulty in their dealings with banks.”
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If bank closures, cash hoarding and heartless bankers didn’t cause the Depression, what did? ”There’s only one possible alternative explanation for that era’s dramatic shrinkage in deposits and loans — or, at least, for the 85% of those shrinkages that can’t be attributed to the traditional villains. And that is that firms were reducing their debt voluntarily. At that time, the Fed tried to increase money supply by pumping reserves into the system, but with everyone paying down debt, the multiplier was actually negative, so it produced no results whatsoever.”
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And companies became hellbent to pay down debt because — “The price of assets purchased with borrowed funds (as most had been, during the Roaring’20s) collapsed after the stock market crash, and companies’ leverage had already gotten extremely high before the Crash. In other words, companies in the 1930s faced the same balance sheet problems as Japanese firms confronted in the 1990s. The lesson we learned from our experience in Japan is that with the government borrowing and spending money, the money multiplier will stay positive, and that’s basically how Japan kept its GDP growing throughout its Great Recession. So we have a situation where fiscal policy is actually controlling the effectiveness of monetary policy. It’s a complete reversal of what almost everyone alive today learned in school — that monetary policy is the way to go. But once everyone is minimizing debt instead of maximizing profits, all sorts of fundamental assumptions go out the window.” Just like a severe asset price crash on leverage caused crises for the U.S. in the 1930s and for Japan in the 1990s, our real estate driven recession is more than just a manufacturing slowdown or a simple policy mistake.
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In the U.S. we had over 150 bank closures last year, and have had 72 in 2011.  Banks are reticent to lend, but the real problem continues to be that there is less demand for money, and deleveraging will continue to weigh on growth for years. There are many parallels Koo describes with the Japanese crisis as well, which I will discuss in another article.
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The worst part of our current situation in the U.S. is that new bank capital adequacy standards are making it even more difficult for banks to encourage private lending.  So banks do not wish to lend, lending standards have increased dramatically, and citizens don’t want to borrow…and now with a flat yield curve, I don’t understand how financial institutions are going to dig their way out of this mess with profits either. Thank you Ben Bernanke.  Your “operation twist” policy has eroded all profit potential for financial institutions in 2012.  Let the deleveraging continue…

Cheers, Singh

“As I said there is nothing wrong with failing. Pick yourself up and try it again. You never are going to know how good you really are until you go out and face failure.”
-Henry Kravis

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Bank Stocks Beware: Bernanke & Fed Support Increasing Capital Requirements

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

U.S. bank indices fell 2% yesterday after fears that capital requirements would increase as much as 7%.  Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), fell below $11.00, the lowest since last year.  The discussion came about after the Basel Committee on Banking revealed how levered large financial institutions still were, and tried to reconcile levels with future recession risks.  A 7% equity capital raise for most banks would be catastrophic and dilute equity by 50%+, but a 3% raise seems manageable in a functioning economy.  The problem is that the U.S. economy is on life support, and that life support is called Quantitative Easing 2.  Once this support fades on June 30th, how will U.S. banks (at their already low valuations due to real estate risk and put backs) raise new equity capital?  A replay of 2009?  You be the judge.

According to Bloomberg, “The Fed supports a proposal at the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision that calls for a maximum capital surcharge of three percentage points on the largest global banks, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

International central bankers and supervisors meeting in Basel, Switzerland, have decided that banks need to hold more capital to avoid future taxpayer-funded bailouts. Financial stock indexes fell in Europe and the U.S. yesterday as traders interpreted June 3 remarks by Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo as leaving the door open to surcharges of as much as seven percentage points.

“A seven percentage-point surcharge for the largest banks would be a disaster,” said a senior analyst at Barclays Capital Inc. in NY. “It will certainly restrict lending and curb economic growth if true.”

Basel regulators agreed last year to raise the minimum common equity requirement for banks to 4.5 percent from 2 percent, with an added buffer of 2.5 percent for a total of 7 percent of assets weighted for risk.

Basel members are also proposing that so-called global systemically important financial institutions, or global SIFIs, hold an additional capital buffer equivalent to as much as three percentage points, a stance Fed officials haven’t opposed, the person said.

Bank Indexes Fall

The Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index fell 1.45 percent yesterday, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 1.1 percent. The KBW Bank Index, which tracks shares of Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo. and 21 other companies, fell 2.1 percent.

In a June 3 speech, Tarullo presented a theoretical calculation with the global SIFI buffer as high as seven percentage points.

“The enhanced capital requirement implied by this methodology can range between about 20% to more than 100% over the Basel III requirements, depending on choices made among plausible assumptions,” he said in the text of his remarks at the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

In a question-and-answer period with C. Fred Bergsten, the Peterson Institute’s director, Tarullo agreed that the capital requirement, with the global SIFI buffer, could be 8.5 percent to 14 percent under this scenario. A common equity requirement of 10 percent is closer to what investors are assuming.

‘Across the Board’

“I think 3 percent is where everyone expected it to come out,” Simon Gleeson a financial services lawyer at Clifford Chance LLP, said in a telephone interview. “If it is 3 percent across the board then it will be interesting to see what happens to the smallest SIFI and the largest non-SIFI” on a competitive basis, he said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner, in remarks yesterday before the International Monetary Conference in Atlanta, said there is a “strong case” for a surcharge on the largest banks. Fed Chairman Bernanke is scheduled to discuss the U.S. economic outlook at the conference today.

“In the US, we will require the largest U.S. firms to hold an additional surcharge of common equity,” Geithner said. “We believe that a simple common equity surcharge should be applied internationally.”

Distort Markets

Financial industry executives are concerned that rising capital requirements will hurt the economy, which is already struggling with an unemployment rate stuck at around 9 percent.

Higher capital charges “will have ramifications on what people pay for credit, what banks hold on balance sheets,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. chairman and chief executive officer Jamie Dimon told investors at a June 2 Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. conference in New York.

The Global Financial Markets Association, a trade group whose board includes executives from GS and Morgan Stanley, said the surcharge may apply to 15 to 26 global banks, according to a May 25 memo sent to board members by chief executive officer Tim Ryan.

Dino Kos, managing director at New York research firm Hamiltonian Associates, said the discussion about new capital requirements comes at a time when banks face stiff headwinds. Credit demand is weak, and non-interest income from fees and trading is also under pressure.

Best Result

U.S. banks reported net income of $29 billion in the first quarter, the best result since the second quarter of 2007, before subprime mortgage defaults began to spread through the global financial system, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Quarterly Banking Profile.

Still, the higher profits resulted from lower loan-loss provisions, the FDIC said. Net operating revenue fell 3.2 percent from a year earlier, only the second time in 27 years of data the industry reported a year-over-year decline in quarterly net operating revenue, the FDIC said.

“You can see why banks are howling,” said Kos, former executive vice president at the New York Fed. Higher capital charges come on top of proposals to tighten liquidity rules and limit interchange fees, while the “Volcker Rule” restricts trading activities. Taken together these imply lower returns on equity, he said.

“How can you justify current compensation levels if returns on equity are much lower than in the past?” Kos said.

Deutsche Bank Discriminates Against Indian Rainmaker

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

It is March 10, 2011, and today I read that a German bank is discriminating against a top banker, a “rainmaker,” because he is Indian.  Anshu Jain is a 48 year old head of investment banking at Deutsche Bank and has generated hundreds of millions of Euros in fees for the bank since 1995.

Anshu was born in 1963 in the humble town of Jaipur, India and later studied economics at Shri Ram College of Commerce at Delhi University.  He earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in 1983 and then pursued a Masters in Finance at UMASS Amherst.  He then started as an analyst in derivatives research at Kidder Peabody (now UBS), from 1985 to 1988.  Anshu joined Merrill lynch in 1989, where he started the first hedge fund coverage group.

By 1995, Anshu joined Deutsche’s markets business and stared a unit focusing on hedge funds and institutional derivatives, later becoming the head of fixed income sales and trading and global head of derivatives and emerging markets.  In 2002, he joined the Deutsche Bank Group Executive Committee and became the head of Global markets and joint head of the Corporate & Investment Bank in 2004.  Anshu’s segment of Deutsche Bank’s business generates 80% of the Company’s revenues, and he still may be passed over for CEO.

Mr. Jain has been in the media under speculation that he could succeed Josef Ackerman, but the Company’s Board of Directors won’t have it.  Key members of the bank’s supervisory board are not in favor of an Indian born banker at the helm.  They want to see the bank under more “traditional” leadership.  The bank also wants to diversify revenues away from the profitable investment banking segment.  Is this just an excuse to pass over Mr. Jain?

The next CEO of the 141 year old bank needs a 2/3 majority vote and approval by the 20 member advisory board.  The board has 10 German labor representatives and 10 shareholder representatives.

According to Reuters, “In a written statement Deutsche Bank said selecting the CEO is a task which the “supervisory board is pursuing in an orderly and professional manner. A decision will be taken when the time is right. There is no urgency, given that Dr. Ackermann’s contract runs for another two years.”

BARCLAYS SOLUTION?

Investors, though, are sure to worry that the move could alienate the hard-charging Jain. Supervisory board chairman Clemens Boersig knows this, according to two people familiar with the supervisory board’s thinking, and is working on ways to retain Jain and his colleague, Chief Risk officer Hugo Baenziger. In the end, however, “the supervisory board believes everybody is replaceable,” a member of the supervisory board said on condition of remaining anonymous. The board feels it is too dangerous for the bank to rely on any one person. “You cannot be held to ransom,” another person, who is familiar with the supervisory board’s thinking, said.

Jain, who would not comment on the issue of succession, could well stay. He has had a hand in hiring most of the key staff at the investment bank, and his considerable stake in Deutsche in the form of shares and options gives him a vested interest in the place. But if he does walk, the bank hopes one of his proteges will step up in the same way that Jain himself emerged after his mentor Edson Mitchell died in a plane crash in December 2000. Most of Deutsche’s top 15 investment bankers have been with the firm for more than a decade, something that should instill loyalty toward the firm and not only its leader, the person close to the supervisory board said.

In private conversations between supervisory board members and Deutsche Bank executives, there has been talk of a “Barclays” solution, named after a recent arrangement at British bank Barclays where John Varley, a Briton with connections to the political establishment, took the title of chief executive, while Robert Diamond, a powerful American investment banker, held de facto power in the background. Diamond finally took the reins from Varley two months ago.

“Perhaps one could whet Jain’s appetite for a similar solution,” one of the people close to the supervisory board said. “In the end we may have to divide up the role among different sets of shoulders,” a supervisory board member said adding. “But we’re not yet at that stage.”

A decision on succession won’t be made this year, another supervisory board member, who declined to be named, said.

The German establishment has long been skeptical of investment banking, a conviction that has hardened since the subprime debacle and the ensuing financial crisis. When the German government stepped in to bail out a raft of lenders including Hypo Real Estate, IKB and Commerzbank, many Germans pointed to “casino” style investment banks as the main culprits. Deutsche Bank, Germany‘s biggest, did not require a bailout itself, but had long been a lightning rod for criticism as Europe’s largest economy moved away from old-fashioned “Rhineland Capitalism,” in which a close-knit clique of bankers, politicians and company executives fostered business and dictated change in corporate Germany, toward a more cut-throat “Wall Street” model where shareholder return is the main driver of change.

A raft of supervisory board members believe Deutsche should focus solely on providing simple financial services to corporations and the “real economy,” rather than dabbling in more complex and higher margin financial products. “Wall Street style capitalism doesn’t have many friends on the supervisory board,” a person close to the supervisory board said.

The opposing camp believes that Deutsche should be a place where gifted and risk-hungry bankers can make outsized bets to generate profits for themselves and shareholders. That view is often associated with Jain, who oversees some of the world’s most talented bankers.

Perhaps crucially, members of the board’s four person chairman’s committee, which is formally tasked with drawing up the shortlist of CEO candidates, consists of only Germans: two labor representatives, chairman Boersig, and Tilman Todenhoefer, former deputy chairman of the board of management at Robert Bosch, an engineering company that specializes in high-tech automotive technologies and is known for its skeptical view of Wall Street-style capitalism.

Although not bestowed with formal powers to appoint the next leader, chief executive Ackermann and shareholder representatives on the supervisory board will have considerable influence over who makes it on to the shortlist, a person close to the supervisory board added.

A PILLAR OF THE GERMAN ESTABLISHMENT

For decades the system that helped steer Europe’s largest economy was controlled by Deutsche Bank and insurer Allianz. Working with large German corporations in which the two financial institutions held stakes, the network of bankers and executives formed what became known as “Deutschland AG”.

The system worked, in its own way. By holding large stakes in companies like Daimler-Benz, Siemens and Thyssen, Deutsche protected German industry from foreign takeovers and provided a system of mutual support in the event of large-scale bankruptcies. Market forces were an afterthought. When German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt decided Germany’s aerospace companies needed to consolidate to stay competitive, he simply talked to then Deutsche boss Alfred Herrhausen, who promptly nudged Daimler-Benz to absorb the big aerospace and defense companies and form German aerospace company DASA.

Deutsche Bank’s seats on corporate boards meant it could win mandates for bond and stock issuances and force changes when it saw the need. In one infamous incident, in 1987, Herrhausen dismissed Daimler-Benz chief Werner Breitschwerdt and installed another executive, Edzard Reuter in his place.

But by the 1990s, as German companies pushed more aggressively into global markets, they needed more sophisticated products even to meet simple needs such as currency or oil price hedging. When Ackermann joined Deutsche in 1996 he was tasked with transforming Germany’s corporate fixer into a “global champion”.

“Joe,” as Ackermann is known by colleagues, had worked at SKA — later to become Credit Suisse — and liked to use tactics and strategy he learned as a Swiss army officer. He decided to accelerate a selloff of industrial stakes — which made up half of Deutsche Bank’s market value as late as 1998, and were proving a drag on the company’s share price — and use the proceeds to build up its core business of banking. The last significant holding — a stake in Daimler — was sold in October 2009.

GLOBAL EXPANSION WEAKENS LOCAL TIES

When Ackerman became the first non-German in the top job in 2002, his academic background and gentle demeanor masked an ambition to shake up the lender. He embarked on a radical program to boost the profitability of bread-and-butter corporate loans, even if that meant alienating established customers.

In early 2003, Ackermann, together with investment banking co-chiefs Jain and Michael Cohrs, and Baenziger, then head of credit risk, introduced the “loan exposure management group” to ensure that each loan to be approved was priced in accordance with international market standards, rather than traditional German ones, and to guarantee that the “overall customer relationship” was generating a 25 percent pre-tax return on equity. The move helped lift Deutsche’s pre-tax return on equity to 14.7 percent today from just 1.1 percent back in 2002.

Competitors like Commerzbank also quietly introduced profitability targets for corporate loans. But it was — and still is — Deutsche that attracted the most criticism for abandoning the old system. Ackermann remains unrepentant. “As a bank with global operations that conducts more than 75 percent of its business outside of its home market, we have obligations to numerous stakeholders around the world,” he told shareholders at Deutsche Bank’s annual general meeting last May. “We have to carefully weigh up these obligations. Sometimes, in Germany, this can lead to criticism by the political community. We have to be able to take it.”

One of Deutsche’s key stakeholders is internal: golden boy Jain. A keen cricket fan, he built up what has become known within Deutsche as “Anshu’s Army” from the original core of mostly American bankers who defected from Merrill Lynch in 1995. The defectors had followed Edson Mitchell, a brash American who demanded fierce loyalty from those who served under him.

Mitchell’s team was instrumental in introducing a more aggressive Anglo-Saxon style of management which sacrificed long-term job security for eye-popping pay packages. Ackermann later cemented the new culture by transferring decision-making power away from the German “Vorstand”, or management board, to a new committee known as the Group Executive Committee, dominated by London-based investment bankers.

The power of the investment banking arm became clear in 2000, when its senior officials sabotaged a signed 30 billion euro merger deal with Deutsche Bank’s main rival, Dresdner Bank, because of overlaps in investment banking. Following a strategy meeting in Florida, Deutsche told Dresdner that of the 6,500 investment bankers at its investment banking unit Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, Deutsche could only take 1,000, a person familiar with the conversation said.

Another clash between the Deutsche’s management board and the supervisory board came in February 2004, when it emerged that Ackermann and senior executives had met Citigroup’s chairman Sanford “Sandy” Weill, and chief executive Charles Price a few months earlier to discuss a takeover of Deutsche Bank. When Ackermann raised the possibility of a sale, members of the German-dominated supervisory board blocked the deal, arguing that Deutsche would be reduced to a local branch office of a New York bank.

As the investment banking arm has grown more powerful, Deutsche’s center of gravity has shifted to London, where key staff including Baenziger and Jain spend most of their time, and where the company now employs more than 8,000 staff. Their London base helps Jain and Baenziger remain close to key clients. But has it also hampered their ability to build up a network of political and corporate contacts in Germany.

CASINO BANKING?

A sign of potential trouble emerged two years ago, when the supervisory board chose to dodge the issue of succession by extending Ackermann’s contract until 2013. Some inside the bank blame that in part on Ackermann, who has not successfully nurtured a clear successor.

Tensions between the supervisory board and Deutsche’s management have grown since 2008, when the global financial system went into meltdown. Deutsche was under extreme pressure to help rescue failing rivals. In mid-March 2008, while Ackermann was in New York, U.S. treasury secretary Henry “Hank” Paulson called him and tried to get Deutsche to buy Bear Stearns, a person familiar with the matter said. Later Deutsche was pushed to buy parts of Lehman. In both instances, Ackermann declined. Deutsche also turned down offers to buy parts of UBS in the second half of 2008, two senior executives familiar with the lender’s thinking said. The Swiss bank was looking for fresh leadership and mulling a sale of its investment bank, but Deutsche preferred its wealth management assets, these people familiar with the talks said. Deutsche walked away when it couldn’t get sufficient detail on balance sheet risks. Regulatory approval may also have been a hurdle, a senior Deutsche banker said.

Only months earlier the bank had been giving its traders a remarkable degree of leeway to place large directional bets, a strategy that had proved extremely successful, current and former employees of the global markets division said, also declining to be named. Proprietary traders — small teams that bet with a bank’s own money — made up to 15 percent of revenues at the sales and trading division between 2002-2007, a senior banker familiar with Deutsche’s strategy told Reuters.

At the sales and trading division, managers such as Boaz Weinstein, a former head of credit trading North America and Europe, and Greg Lippmann, global head of asset-backed securities trading and syndicate and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), were particularly aggressive. Lippmann made a $1 billion bet against the subprime market, a gamble that started to come good in the second half of 2008 when global markets fell. Weinstein — a chess fanatic known for taking teams of traders to Vegas for poker tournaments — also had large positions running into the billions, a person familiar with his business said.

Single bets could be very large. One left the bank with 600 million euros of rates exposure, a former colleague who worked at Deutsche’s credit trading division at the time told Reuters. This sort of extreme trading led The Economist to describe Deutsche as a “giant hedge fund” run by an “Indian bond junkie” in 2004, a view some could argue was not justified by the investment bank’s relatively consistent performance over the past decade.

Things were less rosy at the proprietary and credit trading divisions during the financial crisis: they fueled Deutsche’s 4.8 billion euro loss in the fourth quarter of 2008 and prompted its management board to abandon proprietary trading the same year — months before regulators discussed a move in that direction.

Despite shedding almost a third of its risky assets between 2009 and 2010, Jain has managed to retain his top staff and win market share in key areas of investment banking. Research firm Greenwich Associates last year ranked Deutsche Bank No. 1 in U.S. bond trading. Profits from the corporate and investment bank have jumped from almost 4 billion euros in 2000, to a near record level of 6 billion euros in 2010, a testament to Jain’s ability to deliver profits in extremely challenging market conditions, analysts and rivals say.

GERMAN REQUIRED

Ackermann’s recent language indicates how difficult it has become to defend risk-taking. In countless speeches to the German business community and politicians, he has said the country “needs to decide whether it wants a globally successful investment bank or not.”

But the son of a doctor from the village of Mels in Switzerland has also tried to ease tensions between business and politics. “Especially here in Germany where those responsible in business and politics live and work further apart geographically than in other countries, we must make a greater effort to listen to one another,” he told the company’s annual general meeting in Frankfurt in May. “Verbal attacks on so-called speculators and political rhetoric about a ‘war’ between governments and markets is not conducive to such a dialogue,” he said.

Bundesbank president Axel Weber’s name has surfaced as a potential candidate though critics on the supervisory board highlight his lack of experience running a commercial bank, as well as his recent clash with Merkel as weak points for such a candidacy.

Helmut Hipper, a fund manager at Frankfurt-based Union investment, thinks Deutsche should not leave it until the last minute to reveal who will take over: “For an institution like Deutsche it is important to announce a successor. Designating a candidate will provide security and predictability.”

Also in the race with an outside chance are internal candidates such as Deutsche’s Germany chief Juergen Fitschen, retail chief Rainer Neske or Chief Financial Officer Stefan Krause.

Whoever does get the job will need to be able to mediate between Berlin and Germany’s financial players. That became clear during the credit crisis. In September 2008, Ackermann was involved in rescue talks for German lenders IKB and Hypo Real Estate. Discussions involved the then finance minister Peer Steinbrueck, regulator Jochen Sanio and representatives from the German banks.

“You need to speak German, period,” a senior German financial figure who was familiar with these talks said. Ackermann himself, asked if the next chief of Deutsche Bank needs to speak German, said, “That’s for the supervisory board to decide.” He had found speaking German “helped.”

Although Jain has been with the Frankfurt-based bank since 1995, he has never spoken a word of German in public and relies on a translation service during press conferences. Late last year when Jain made an appearance at a banking conference in Frankfurt he was asked “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” a question designed to find out whether he had been brushing up his German. Jain dodged the answer with a smile and said, “I’m not going to go there,” before walking away.”

Check out our intensive investment banking, private equity, and sales & trading courses!  The discount code Merger34299 will work until April 2011.


Nomura Hires First Female CEO – Junko Nakagawa

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

September 2011: According to BBC News, Nomura made a very bold move this week by appointing its first female CEO.  Junko Nakagawa joined Nomura Securities Co. in 1988, working at its underwriting and finance divisions before leaving the company in 2004.  This could start a trend in upward mobility for women in the investment banking field:

Japan’s largest brokerage house, Nomura, has appointed its first female chief financial officer in an unusual move for a top Japanese company. Junko Nakagawa will take up her position on 1 April. Nomura also announced the promotion of Jesse Bhattal to deputy president of the firm’s wholesale banking division. The move is part of a wider effort by some big Japanese companies to offer roles to foreigners to help them move into overseas markets, analysts said. “We have not named Ms Nakagawa as chief financial officer because she is a woman but because she has the capacity to do this job and assume the responsibilities,” Nomura said. “That said, we think is good to encourage diversity in our business.” The promotion is an unusual move in Japan where senior business positions are generally filled by men. “It is rare for a Japanese financial institution to give this type of promotion to a woman,” said Azuma Ohno at Credit Suisse in Tokyo.“It’s an impressive move.”


S&P 500 2011 Median Target – 1,535, Really?

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Investment bank earnings estimates are truly bullish for 2011.  Applying a 16x-18x multiple to these forward earnings brings you to S&P levels unseen since 2007.  Unfortunately, something not included in these estimates is that for every $10 crude oil increases, S&P earnings fall by $3.  This does not even factor in the fall in consumer confidence when citizens across the globe realize that they are soon going to pay $200 to fill up a mid-sized sedan, once QE3 is unveiled and Middle Eastern governments are overthrown once and for all.  After all this is done for, oil could easily reach $130+ on a supply disruption in Saudi Arabia.

Of course, BofA’s Bianco will not discuss this.  Neither will the analysts at Barclays, who just revised their S&P 500 earnings estimates up from 1,420 to 1,450.

Please view LA’s blog entry to see the S&P earning’s table below.

Predicted
Firm Strategist 2011 Close 2011 EPS RPF Model
Bank of America David Bianco 1,400 $93.00 1,535
Bank of Montreal Ben Joyce 1,300 $89.00 1,469
Barclays Barry Knapp 1,420 $91.00 1,502
Citigroup* Tobias Levkovich 1,300 $94.50 1,559
Credit Suisse Andrew Garthwaite 1,350 $91.00 1,502
Deutsche Bank Binky Chadha 1,550 $96.00 1,584
Goldman Sachs David Kostin 1,450 $94.00 1,551
HSBC Garry Evans 1,320
JPMorgan Thomas Lee 1,425 $94.00 1,551
Morgan Stanley**
Oppenheimer Brian Belski 1,325 $88.50 1,460
RBC Myles Zyblock $88.00 1,452
UBS Jonathan Golub 1,325 $93.00 1,535
Median 1,350 $93.00 1,535
Average 1,379 $92.00 1,518
High 1,550 $96.00 1,584
Low 1,300 $88.00 1,452

Pershing Square Capital Q12010 Investor Letter

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

In the latest hedge fund letter, portfolio manager William Ackman goes over his positions in General Growth Properties, Borders, Sears Canada, Craft, Citigroup, and Alliansce.  At the time the letter was written, Citigroup made up 9% of the fund’s holdings with the following rationale:

“We recently acquired 146.5 million shares of Citigroup, representing approximately 9% of fund capital. We believe that recent events surrounding the financial reform bill, alleged fraud at Goldman Sachs, the overhang of the sale of the U.S. government’s 27% stake in Citi, and distress in Europe have created a compelling opportunity to purchase Citi shares at a meaningful discount to their fair value.”

Pershing Q1 2010 Investor Letter

Lazard Operating Revenues Jump 67% Year over Year: Core Investment Banking Coming Back

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Lazard, famed investment bank and legacy of Bruce Wasserstein recently reported earnings that blew investors away.  Operating revenues jumped 67% from one year earlier.  Lazard advises on mergers & acquisitions, restructurings, and to a lesser extent, capital raisings.  It operates from 40 cities across 25 countries throughout Europe, North America, Asia, Australia, and Central and South America, focusing on two business segments: Financial Advisory and Asset Management (explained below).

According to Bloomberg, “Lazard Ltd., the biggest non-bank merger adviser, rose in New York trading after posting adjusted earnings that beat analysts’ estimates on operating revenue that jumped 67 percent from a year earlier.

The loss for the first three months of 2010 was $33.5 million, or 38 cents a share, compared with a loss of $53.5 million, or 77 cents, in the same period a year earlier, the Hamilton, Bermuda-based company said today in a statement. Adjusted earnings were 46 cents a share, beating the 18-cent average estimate of 12 analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

Lazard’s revenue from advising on mergers and acquisitions climbed from a year earlier even as companies completed a lower value of deals in the quarter. Excluding special charges, the firm’s compensation ratio fell to 60 percent of revenue, compared with 75 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

“The report should give investors a booster shot of confidence on two important fronts,” Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Chris Kotowski said in a note to investors. “First, that the rebound in M&A activity is happening, albeit in fits and starts. Second, that the company is developing discipline around its compensation and other costs.”

Lazard rose 57 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $38.78 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares gained 28 percent last year after falling 27 percent in 2008.

Revenue Increase

Operating revenue rose 67 percent from a year earlier to a first-quarter record of $456.9 million. Operating revenue from financial-advisory services climbed to $269.1 million as fees from advising on both mergers and restructuring jumped more than 50 percent.

Revenue from merger and acquisition and strategic advisory climbed 53 percent from a year earlier to $147.6 million. That’s down 13 percent from the fourth quarter of 2009.

Asset management revenue climbed 78 percent from a year earlier to $183.7 million. Assets under management increased 4 percent to $135 billion from Dec. 31, with net inflows of $3 billion in the quarter.

“Both financial advisory and asset management had their best first quarters ever,” Chief Financial Officer Michael Castellano said in an interview. “We’re continuing to gain global market share in the M&A business.”

Compensation costs climbed 35 percent from a year earlier to $275.5 million. The firm also recorded a one-time $87.1 million expense tied to staff reductions.

‘Right Manpower Complement’

“Over the last two years, in addition to aggressively hiring senior bankers, we’ve also right-sized the firm in both asset management and the financial-advisory business, to make sure we have the right skill sets for the new world,” Castellano said. “I think we’ve now got the right manpower complement to be able to drive growth in both of the businesses.”

Kenneth Jacobs was named chief executive officer in November after the death of Bruce Wasserstein, the preeminent Wall Street dealmaker who took Lazard public in 2005. Jacobs, who has worked at the firm for 22 years, had served as deputy chairman and CEO of North American businesses since 2002, shortly after Wasserstein arrived.

Lazard said last month that Castellano will retire on March 31, 2011. He will be replaced by Matthieu Bucaille, who served as deputy chief executive officer of Lazard Freres Banque in Paris.

Financial Advice

Lazard has been using its restructuring-advisory business to counter weakness in mergers and acquisitions. It was the second-ranked adviser in 2009 bankruptcy liquidations, according to Bloomberg data, and advised debtors or creditors in the top 10 Chapter 11 bankruptcies in 2009.

Companies worldwide completed $358.9 billion of deals in the first quarter, down 25 percent from the same period in 2009 and 52 percent from the first quarter of 2008, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Lazard was the seventh-ranked financial adviser on announced deals and 12th-ranked on completed takeovers in the first quarter. The firm advised on completed deals totaling more than $33.9 billion, including Kraft Foods Inc.’s acquisition of Cadbury PLC.

Lazard employees own more than a quarter of the firm, excluding the estate of Wasserstein. Because the stakes owned by employees can be converted into common stock, the company reports earnings as though the stakes were fully exchanged instead of treating them as minority interest.

Evercore Partners Inc., the investment bank founded by former U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman, reported earnings last week that beat analysts’ estimates as advisory revenue climbed from a year ago.

Lazard Business Breakdown

Financial Advisory

The Company offers corporate, partnership, institutional, government and individual clients across the globe an array of financial advisory services regarding mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and other strategic matters, restructurings, capital structure, capital raising and various other corporate finance matters. During the year ended December 31, 2009, the Financial Advisory segment accounted for approximately 65% of its consolidated net revenue. It has operations in United States, United Kingdom, France, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Dubai, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay and mainland China.

The Company advises clients on a range of strategic and financial issues. When it advises companies in the potential acquisition of another company, business or certain assets, its services include evaluating potential acquisition targets, providing valuation analyses, evaluating and proposing financial and strategic alternatives and rendering, if appropriate, fairness opinions. It also may advise as to the timing, structure, financing and pricing of a proposed acquisition and assist in negotiating and closing the acquisition. In addition, the Company may assist in executing an acquisition by acting as a dealer-manager in transactions structured as a tender or exchange offer. When the Company advises clients that are contemplating the sale of certain businesses, assets or their entire company, its services include advising on the appropriate sales process for the situation, valuation issues, assisting in preparing an offering circular or other appropriate sales materials and rendering, if appropriate, fairness opinions. It also identifies and contacts selected qualified acquirors, and assists in negotiating and closing the proposed sale. It also advises its clients regarding financial and strategic alternatives to a sale, including recapitalizations, spin-offs, carve-outs, split-offs and tracking stocks.

For companies in financial distress, the Company’s services may include reviewing and analyzing the business, operations, properties, financial condition and prospects of the company, evaluating debt capacity, assisting in the determination of an appropriate capital structure and evaluating and recommending financial and strategic alternatives, including providing advice on dividend policy. It may also provide financial advice and assistance in developing and seeking approval of a restructuring or reorganization plan, which may include a plan of reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code or other similar court administered processes in non-United States jurisdictions.

When the Company assists clients in raising private or public market financing, its services include originating and executing private placements of equity, debt and related securities, assisting clients in connection with securing, refinancing or restructuring bank loans, originating public underwritings of equity, debt and convertible securities and originating and executing private placements of partnership and similar interests in alternative investment funds, such as leveraged buyout, mezzanine or real estate focused funds. In addition, it may advise on capital structure and assist in long-range capital planning and rating agency relationships.

Asset Management

The Company’s Asset Management business provides investment management and advisory services to institutional clients, financial intermediaries, private clients and investment vehicles around the world. As of December 31, 2009, total assets under management (AUM) were $129.5 billion, of which approximately 82% was invested in equities, 14% in fixed income, 3% in alternative investments and 1% in private equity funds. During 2009, approximately 36% of its AUM was invested in international investment strategies, 46% was invested in global investment strategies and 18% was invested in United States investment strategies. As of December 31, 2009, approximately 89% of its AUM was managed on behalf of institutional clients, including corporations, labor unions, public pension funds, insurance companies and banks, and through sub-advisory relationships, mutual fund sponsors, broker-dealers and registered advisors, and approximately 11% of its AUM, as of December 31, 2009, was managed on behalf of individual client relationships, which are principally with family offices and high-net worth individuals.

The Company competes with Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs & Co., JPMorgan Chase, Mediobanca, Morgan Stanley, Rothschild, UBS, The Blackstone Group, Evercore Partners, Moelis & Co., Greenhill & Co., Alliance Bernstein, AMVESCAP, Brandes Investment Partners, Capital Management & Research, Fidelity, Lord Abbett, Aberdeen and Schroders.

Pandit Getting Ready to IPO Sandy Weill’s Primerica

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Years after Sandy Weill built Citigroup, Vikram Pandit has been working day and night to divest all ancillary businesses in order to raise capital and pay back the U.S. government for one of the largest bailouts in history.  To date, Citigroup has already sold its Japanese brokerage, its commodities trading unit, and credit card assets.  The most recent divestiture/IPO  for Citi is its  insurance division, Primerica, the insurance company that Sandy Weill used to build Citigroup into the powerhouse it was in 2005/2006.  The IPO reflects improvements in the market.  There are 4 IPOs planned for this week. Primerica will be selling for a sharp discount of 7x PE compared to other insurers, which trade at about 9x P/E.  Warburg Pincus will be purchasing about 30% of the IPO with warrants to purchase more shares in the future.  The division has 100,000 representatives selling financial services to households with $30,000 to $100,000 in annual income.  It earned $495 million in 2009, almost 3x as much in 2008.  Primerica will trade under the symbol “PRI.”

According to Michael Tsang & Craig Crudell of Bloomberg, “Primerica Inc., the insurance business that Sanford I. “Sandy” Weill used to build Citigroup Inc., is selling shares in an initial public offering at a discount to its competitors.

Primerica plans to raise $252 million tomorrow, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission and Bloomberg data showed. At the middle of its price range, the Duluth, Georgia- based distributor of consumer-finance products from term-life insurance to mutual funds would be valued at 6.74 times earnings after accounting for its planned reorganization. That’s 29 percent less than the median for U.S. life and health-insurance providers, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Citigroup Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit is dismantling the company Weill built spending about $50 billion on Travelers Corp., Salomon Inc. and Citicorp during the 1990s to offer everything from insurance to stock broking and branch banking. The sale comes after the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s rally to an 18-month high spurred a rebound in the IPO market.

“The Primerica deal reflects a shift from the financial supermarket model, where instead of being good at a lot of things, a company like Citigroup ended up being mediocre at everything,” said James Dailey, who oversees $140 million as chief investment officer at TEAM Financial Asset Management LLC in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “Primerica could fetch a reasonable price. It’s been around a long time, its brand is established.”

Primerica is one of four U.S. companies scheduled to sell shares through initial offerings this week.

IPO Rebound

All five IPOs since March 15 have priced within or above their forecast range as the S&P 500 extended a rebound from its 2010 low on Feb. 8 to 11 percent. The previous 14 deals since the start of the year had been cut by 24 percent on average, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Carlyle Group’s Windsor, Connecticut-based SS&C Technologies Holdings Inc., which sells trading and investment management software to the financial industry, and Meru Networks Inc. of Sunnyvale, California, which makes Wi-Fi networking equipment, are scheduled to price their IPOs today. Carlyle, the Washington-based buyout firm that oversees $89 billion, won’t sell SS&C shares in the $161 million offering.

Tengion Inc., the East Norriton, Pennsylvania-based company trying to grow replacement organs and tissues, is also set to hold its IPO this week, according to Bloomberg data.

Primerica, which has 100,000 representatives selling financial services to households with $30,000 to $100,000 in annual income, earned $495 million in 2009, an almost threefold increase from a year earlier.

Relative Value

Net income rebounded after declining 72 percent in 2008, when Primerica wrote down some of its goodwill, or the amount paid above the net asset value in an acquisition.

As part of its reorganization, Primerica will transfer 80 percent to 90 percent of the “risk and rewards” from the life insurance policies that it sold and distribute $622 million in assets to Citigroup before the IPO, according to the filing. That includes a $454 million one-time dividend to Citigroup.

At the middle of its $12 to $14 price range, the company is valued at 6.74 times its 2009 per-share income of $1.93, after taking into account a decrease in revenue and profit that would have taken place if the reorganization occurred on Jan. 1, 2009, according to its filing and data compiled by Bloomberg.

That’s less than the median 9.52 times price-earnings ratio for 23 publicly-traded U.S. life and health-insurance providers, Bloomberg data show.

Prudential, Ameriprise

Prudential Financial Inc. of Newark, New Jersey, the second-largest life insurer, and Ameriprise Financial Inc., the Minneapolis-based financial planning and services firm, command higher valuations, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Primerica lists the two companies among its biggest competitors.

Buyers of Primerica’s IPO will own 24 percent of the insurance firm after the offering.

They will also be investing alongside New York-based Warburg Pincus LLC, which oversees $30 billion. The private- equity firm agreed to buy 17.2 million shares, or a 23 percent stake, in a private sale at the IPO midpoint price, and warrants to purchase 4.3 million shares at a 20 percent premium. Warburg’s stake may increase to 33 percent if the firm exercises its right to buy additional shares from Citigroup.

“It’s a ‘fire sale’ by Citi,” Francis Gaskins, president of IPOdesktop.com in Marina del Rey, California, said in an e- mail. Also, “the IPO investor can get in on the same terms as Warburg. There appears little, if any, risk in this IPO at $13.”

Credit Markets

All proceeds will go to New York-based Citigroup, which is serving as the lead underwriter for the sale. Primerica is part of Citi Holdings, the collection of businesses that Citigroup’s Pandit said he would sell, wind down or restructure.

Pandit is dismantling Weill’s empire after loans and investments tied to the U.S. subprime mortgage market led to $47.6 billion in losses since the last quarter of 2007. Citigroup took a taxpayer-funded bailout after the credit markets froze, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed and Bear Stearns Cos. and Merrill Lynch & Co. were forced to sell themselves. All three companies were based in New York.

Weill used Primerica to build Citigroup through a series of acquisitions. In 1992, Primerica bought a 27 percent stake in Travelers, then took over the company a year later for $3.3 billion, keeping Travelers’ name and umbrella logo.

The company acquired Salomon in 1997 and in 1998 merged with Citicorp in a $37.4 billion deal to create Citigroup.

“This provides an important message that Citi is prepared to shed assets which clearly do not fit the current strategy, even if they have well-known brands,” said Richard Staite, a London-based analyst who covers financial institutions at Atlantic Equities LLP. “It’s a high-profile sale.””

According to Reuters, “Few other financial services companies cater to Primerica’s niche– lower-middle-class and middle-class families. And the offering’s valuation is relatively low compared to other life insurance companies.

Private equity firm Warburg Pincus will buy up to a third of the company, which is a vote of confidence in the business, analysts said.

“Warburg Pincus has put this thing together and they expect to make money. If people buy at the IPO price they’ll be buying right along with Warburg’s price,” said IPOdesktop.com President Francis Gaskins said on Friday.

There are definitely risks in buying Primerica shares. Primerica will not keep any of the proceeds from the offering, so the funds will not bolster the insurer.

Citi, which is leading the underwriters, is taking the IPO proceeds, and has taken substantial funds out of the business through dividends in recent years– nearly $1 billion since 2007. The bank will take another $622 million in dividends before the completion of the IPO, according to its prospectus. Those are funds that Primerica will not be able to invest in its growth.

“When there is a spinoff generally the parent extracts its pound of flesh, which is certainly the case here,” said Linda Killian, a portfolio manager with Connecticut-based Renaissance Capital.

But Primerica can still grow at a healthy clip, Killian said.

“The company is a very sales-oriented company that focuses on the really middle income America that doesn’t get a whole lot of financial services help from some of the larger companies that tend to focus on higher net worth individuals,” Killian said.

Most of the risk — and profit — from life insurance policies that Primerica has sold in recent years will be ceded to Citigroup, but Killian estimates that Primerica could replenish its book in as short a period as four to five years.

Primerica posted net income of about $495 million and revenue of $2.2 billion in 2009.

The group the firm serves is underinsured and needs to boost its investments, especially coming out of the financial crisis, said Clark Troy, a senior analyst at Aite Group.

The shock from the crisis has revealed to consumers that they might not be as well-prepared for retirement and other major milestones as they ought to be, Troy said. Middle class consumers may find Primerica’s pitch persuasive, he added.

“Its a financial product that can be priced attractively and give (the consumer) a lot of comfort,” Troy said.

After the IPO Citi will own 32 to 46 percent of the stock and private equity investor Warburg Pincus LLC [WP.UL] will own 23 to 33 percent of the stock.

In a separate, private deal Warburg Pincus has agreed to buy about 17.2 million shares, and warrants to buy another 4.3 million shares at 120 percent of the IPO price, assuming Citigroup meets certain conditions. Warburg also has the right to buy up to another $100 million worth of shares at the IPO price.

Citi, which accepted $45 billion worth of U.S. government bailout funds, has not made a secret about wanting to divest itself entirely of Primerica. But that is because Primerica is not part of its main banking business, and does not mean the unit is a bad business

If Primerica PRI.N prices at the midpoint of the expected range it will have a price to book value of 0.7. By comparison Ameriprise Financial Inc (AMP.N) and Prudential Financial Inc (PRU.N) are over 1, said IPOdesktop.com’s Gaskins.”

U.S. Government to Earn $7B+ on Citigroup

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Months after the financial crisis and shadow banking fiasco that led the United States into a severe credit crunch and near depression, the U.S. government is making profits on selling warrants and shares of financial firms that received TARP funds.  The U.S. government could earn more than $7 billion in its $32 billion stake in Citigroup soon.  Morgan Stanley will be managing the sale of the government’s stake.  The investment bank is advising the U.S. to avoid a block sale at a discount to current prices to avoid forcing the price of Citi shares to fall quickly.

According to Mr. Smith and Ms. Solomon of the WSJ, “The U.S. government could earn a profit of more than $7 billion on its investment in Citigroup Inc. under its plan to sell off its $32 billion stake over about six months, people familiar with the matter said.

The government said it hired Morgan Stanley to manage the sale of its 27% holding in the bank, which is one of its last remaining stakes in a Wall Street banking giant. The government would sell 8% to 10% of the shares traded daily, according to people familiar with the plan.

At the current market price, the planned sale to investors would give the government a profit of about $7.19 billion on its original $25 billion investment under the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

If that price level holds up, it would be the largest U.S. profit on any such TARP investment, exceeding $4.27 billion on dividends and sale proceeds from preferred stock and warrants in Bank of America Corp., according to Linus Wilson, a finance professor at University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The Treasury’s sale plan applies only to its holding of 7.7 billion common shares. The U.S. also owns $5.3 billion of Citigroup trust-preferred securities and warrants to buy 465.1 million shares. Under the so-called dribble-out plan announced Monday, the government will initially sell the Citi shares steadily in the market rather than try a giant “block” sale at a discount to the market price.

The last big Citigroup sale in December, aimed at repaying a $20 billion government holding of preferred stock, came at a big discount to the market price after several other big bank stock sales, depressing the market price for Citi’s stock for two months.

At Citigroup’s current market price, the planned sale to investors would give the government a profit of more than $7.19 billion on its original $25 billion investment under the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. Above, a Citibank branch in San Francisco.

At the time of that sale, the Treasury agreed not to sell its remaining 7.7 billion shares until March 16. The agency has said it planned to sell the stock this year, and the price has recently been surging in anticipation that the overhang of government ownership would be eliminated.

The stock rose last week on reports that the government would avoid a block sale at a discount to the market, according to Jeffrey Harte, an analyst at Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP.

However, the Treasury didn’t rule out a block sale later, saying only that the sale would begin under “a pre-arranged written trading plan.” Citigroup shares fell 13 cents, or 3.02%, to $4.18 in 4 p.m. trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Because of its low price and volatile fortunes, Citigroup stock has traded heavily over the past year. Since Dec. 17, it has accounted for 10% or more of NYSE volume on 31 different days. At its recent daily average volume of 500 million shares, the Treasury could sell 50 million shares daily at the 10% target, a pace at which the sale would take about seven months.

The government’s possible profit on the Citi stake represents an unexpected windfall from an investment originally designed “to prevent an even worse recession,” said Douglas Elliott, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. policy research organization.”