Tag Archives: leveraged

‘Concentrated Risk’ Threat to Aussie Banks

29 Mar

From Contrarian Investor’s Journal:

We must confess, we are getting more and more nervous about the potential for a Black Swan hitting the Australian economy. Particularly, we are looking at a vulnerability in the banking system. Here are some facts about Australian banks:

  1. As at December 2009, around 75% of the Australian mortgage market is held by the Big 4 banks. 50% are held by Commonwealth and Westpac while 25% are held by ANZ and NAB. (source: CoreData’s Australian Mortgage Report Q1 2010)
  2. 60% of Commonwealth’s lending books are residential mortgages.
  3. 50% of Westpac’s lending books are residential mortgages.

Now, here’s an interesting news report from almost two years ago:

“The Reserve Bank of Australia has a dark worry about our banks: they get 90 per cent of their cash from each other. If one bank gets into trouble, the Australian financial system could be snap-frozen overnight.”

That is only one concern for Australia’s banking system. You know, the one that we are constantly reassured is “world-leading”, “safe and secure”, “the best in the world”.  The banking system that needed a Government (ie, taxpayer)  Guarantee on customer deposits since October 2008, to stop the “run on the banks” that threatened to collapse it.  The banking system that still has wholesale funds frozen to withdrawals, leaving hundreds of thousands of retirees destitute and forced to go back on the government (taxpayer) pension.

There’s also this concern. Australia’s banks have $13 Trillion in off-balance sheet business.  Yes, that’s Trillion with a ‘T’. But, they only have $2.59 Trillion in on-balance sheet assets.

From Money Morning:

We’re sure the banks and the RBA will claim that all the off-balance sheet business is completely offset, so that losses are contained. Personally, we don’t think you should believe a word of it. The number one risk with the off-balance sheet business is counterparty risk. As long as each counterparty can keep the ponzi scheme going then sure, everything will be tickety-boo.

But as we all know, that can’t happen. We’ve seen counterparties collapse before (Lehman, Bear Sterns, etc…) and they’ll collapse or need bailing out again.

There’s only so long that banks can keep the ponzi going. They’ve scraped through by the skin of their teeth thanks to an unprecedented bail-out by the taxpayer.

Our “world-leading” Big Four banking system is a total disaster just waiting to happen. And it’s all thanks to greed… and Debt.

Barnaby is right.

Junk Bonds Record in ‘Goldilocks’ Market

29 Mar

From Bloomberg:

Junk bond sales reached a record this month as rising profits and record low Federal Reserve interest rates foster lending and investment to the lowest-rated borrowers.

Companies worldwide issued $38.3 billion of junk bonds this month, passing the previous high of $36 billion in November 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Yields fell 0.95 percentage point this month to within 5.96 percentage points of government debt, the narrowest gap since January 2008, Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data show.

This is “an almost ‘Goldilocks’ environment for leveraged credit markets,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts led by Peter Acciavatti, the top-ranked high-yield strategist in Institutional Investor magazine’s annual survey for the past seven years, said in a March 26 report to the bank’s clients.

This is very bad news.

There has been growing concern around the world that the sales of junk bonds prior to the GFC will lead to a junk bond apocalypse in 2012:

“An avalanche is brewing in 2012 and beyond if companies don’t get out in front of this,” said Kevin Cassidy, a senior credit officer at Moody’s.

Private equity firms and many nonfinancial companies were able to borrow on easy terms until the credit crisis hit in 2007, but not until 2012 does the long-delayed reckoning begin for a series of leveraged buyouts and other deals that preceded the crisis.

Now, the ongoing Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) in the USA, and near zero interest rates in Japan and many other developed nations, has led to a new record in the sales of those same high risk ‘junk bonds’.

In other words, central banks and governments around the world are adding more fuel to the fire.

China May Let Banks Fail

9 Mar

From Business Insider:

Last spring, in the midst of China’s huge lending boom, the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) was reassuring skeptics there was no reason to fear an explosion of bad debt because most loans were going into government-sponsored infrastructure projects and would almost certainly be repaid.  A year later, they’re a lot more worried, and are sending a strong message to lenders that such loans should not be considered risk free.  Even with the guarantees in place, Bloomberg reports that “a few cities and counties may face very large repayment pressure in coming years because of debt ratios [outstanding debt compared to annual revenue] already exceeding 400 percent.”

Whether regulators will really leave banks holding the bag for the loans that have already been made is another matter.  The government has no interest in undermining the balance sheets of the big banks, which it would be forced to bail out in any event.  But I found the Bloomberg article’s allusion the 1998 collapse of Guangdong International Trust & Investment Corp. (GITIC) potentially prophetic.  Besides the “big four” banks, China has literally hundreds of smaller lending institutions, from municipal banks to trust companies to rural credit co-ops.  I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these institutions, with their close ties to local governments, own a big piece of the loans being called into question.  It’s too early to say, but if GITIC offers any precedent, we could see a handful of less-favored institutions cut loose and allowed to implode.

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