Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac to delist shares on NYSE

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fannie Mae FNM.N and Freddie Mac FRE.N, the largest U.S. home funding companies, will delist their shares on the New York Stock Exchange after Fannie Mae fell below and Freddie Mac held near minimum price requirements, the companies' regulator said on Wednesday.

The companies, each taken under government control in September 2008, said they no longer met NYSE listing standards and that shares would trade in the over-the-counter market.

The regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, directed the companies to delist common and preferred stock from the NYSE and any other national securities exchange.

It said the delisting order was not taken due to the companies’ performance.

“FHFA’s determination to direct each company to delist does not constitute any reflection on either Enterprise’s current performance or future direction, nor does delisting imply any other findings or determination on the part of FHFA as regulator or conservator,” FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco said in a statement.

Stock exchange requirements for maintaining price levels and curing deficiencies were the driving force for moving to delist, he said.

Common shares of each company have hovered near the NYSE required minimum average closing price of $1 for more than 30 trading days and for most months since the conservatorships began in September 2008.

Fannie Mae’s closing stock price has recently been below the required average price, which would mean either delisting or a “cure” to restore the price. Curing would not assure maintaining the minimum or avoiding loss of shareholder value, according to the regulator.

Freddie Mac’s shares had been holding just above the minimum.

“A voluntary delisting at this time simply makes sense and fits with the goal of a conservatorship to preserve and conserve assets,” said DeMarco.

In NYSE trading in late morning on Wednesday, Fannie Mae’s shares traded around 45 cents, down 51 percent, and Freddie’s shares were quoted at about 61 cents, down 50 percent.

“If you run the numbers there is no value for shareholders,” said Malcolm Polley, president and chief investment officer at Stewart Capital Advisors in Indiana, Pennsylvania, which does not own shares in either company.

“For them to even be trading on an exchange I think is ludicrous.”

The two companies have tapped more than $145 billion combined in federal aid, and have an open credit line with the Treasury Department through 2012.

The government is relying heavily on them to stabilize the U.S. housing market after the worst crash since the Great Depression. But record foreclosures and defaults ate away at the companies’ capital, leading them into conservatorship.

The long-term fate of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is in question, as Congress next year is expected to begin overhauling the entire U.S. housing finance system. That process could take years to play out.

“I think this is a technical action rather than a meaningful action,” said Michael Youngblood, principal, Five Bridges Capital LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. “There is no consensus within the (Obama) Administration on the future of the agencies.”

The OTC trading is expected to start around July 8.

Fannie Mae said in a statement that the switch should not affect its ability to provide liquidity and stability to the mortgage market, or its focus on foreclosure-prevention and refinancing under the Making Home Affordable Program.

Freddie Mac said it expects its shares will be quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board “so long as market makers demonstrate an interest” in trading the securities.

“The stocks are traded by appointment only. I can’t see this will meaningfully affect the holders of their stocks,” Youngblood said.

Both companies said they will still file periodic reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Additional reporting by Richard Leong in New York and Corbett Daly in Washington; Editing by Andrea Ricci