NEW YORK (Reuters) - Freddie Mac “absolutely” has enough capital, a spokeswoman for the second-largest source of U.S. home funding said on Thursday as the company’s stock plunged over concerns about its capitalization.
The company is also committed to raising additional capital at the appropriate time, although the timing, mix of securities and amount depend on factors including market conditions, spokeswoman Sharon McHale said in a telephone interview from Freddie Mac’s McLean, Virginia, headquarters.
Freddie Mac had said this spring that it would raise $5.5 billion in new capital through the sale of preferred and common shares.
On Thursday, Freddie Mac shares tumbled nearly 22 percent on the New York Stock Exchange to $8.06.
It was the third day out of four that shares of both Freddie Mac, and its larger counterpart, Fannie Mae, have fallen by double digits. At session lows, shares sank to their lowest levels since 1991.
Fannie Mae’s shares were down 9.9 percent at $13.80. A spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment on the share price.
The losses are heightening market turbulence at a time when U.S. officials are relying more heavily on the two companies to help steady one of the worst housing markets since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Earlier this week, concern that a proposed accounting rule would require the companies to raise billions of dollars in capital roiled financial markets, raising doubt about whether the two government-sponsored enterprises can withstand more losses and support housing.
“As Director Lockhart has noted on several occasions this week, we have maintained the highest possible capital rating and we continue to hold a surplus above our regulatory requirement, and that will enable us to continue to support the nation’s housing markets as we’ve been doing,” spokeswoman McHale said.
James Lockhart is the director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, or OFHEO, which regulates Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
Freddie Mac “management remains committed to raising that additional capital at the appropriate time,” McHale said, adding that “the exact amount and timing and mix of securities will depend on a variety of factors including the prevailing market conditions when we do go out to raise it.”
The company has been in discussions with the Federal Accounting Standards Board (FASB) about the proposed accounting change, which Freddie Mac does not see as being in the best interest of the housing market, McHale added.
The spokeswoman also said that Freddie Mac is not aware of government discussions reported in The Wall Street Journal about what the government would do if the companies fail.
“I’m not aware of anything. ... The company has certainly not been in discussions. As I said, we are adequately capitalized,” McHale said.
Reporting by Lynn Adler; Editing by Jonathan Oatis