August 17, 2008 / 6:28 PM / 11 years ago

U.S. likely to recapitalize Fannie, Freddie: report

The corporate logo for Freddie Mac is seen at its headquarters building in McLean, Virginia in this July 23, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Larry Downing

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury is growing increasingly likely to recapitalize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the months ahead on the taxpayer’s dime, Barron’s reported in its August 18 edition.

The weekly financial newspaper said that such a move could wipe out existing holders of the agencies’ common stock, with preferred shareholders and even holders of the two entities’ $19 billion of subordinated debt also suffering losses.

An insider in the Bush administration told Barron’s that Fannie and Freddie “are being jawboned” by the Treasury Department and their new regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), to raise more equity.

But government officials don’t expect the agencies to succeed, Barron’s reported.

If the government-sponsored enterprises fail to raise fresh capital, the administration is likely to mount its own recapitalization, with Treasury infusing taxpayer money into the agencies, according to the Barron’s source.

The paper reported the infusion would take the form of a preferred stock with such seniority, dividend preference and convertibility rights that Fannie’s and Freddie’s existing common shares “effectively would be wiped out, and their preferred shares left bereft of dividends.”

The report called an equity injection by the government a quasi-nationalization — without having to put the agencies’ liabilities on the U.S. balance sheet, and thus doubling the U.S. debt.

After accounting for deferred tax assets and generous asset marks, Fannie and Freddie each may have a negative $50 billion in asset value, and little prospect of digging themselves out of the hole, Barron’s reported.

Reporting by Ed Tobin, editing by Richard Chang

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