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[经济学人] [2009.03.26] Dr Geithner's bank rehab 盖特那博士的银行复兴计划

America's toxic-asset plan 美国的不良资产救援计划

Dr Geithner's bank rehab

Mar 26th 2009 | NEW YORK
From The Economist print edition

There should be no shortage of buyers for American banks’ rotten assets, thanks to generous subsidies. Sellers will be harder to entice


ONE way to treat a recovering drug addict is to force him to go through cold turkey. Another is to prescribe him a substitute for the original poison, such as methadone. America’s long-awaited effort to relieve banks of troubled assets leans towards the second approach, aiming to entice private buyers by offering the same supercharged leverage that coursed through the veins of the financial system during the credit boom. Paradoxically, at a time when the private sector is furiously cutting back on debt, the government sees the copious provision of cheap financing as the best way to loosen up the market for illiquid debt.

The public-private partnership[1]  announced on March 23rd marks a revival of sorts for the asset-buying component of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billion rescue fund created last October which was quickly refashioned into a bank-recapitalisation vehicle. This time, however, the buyers will be money managers and insurers, not the government, though they will have plenty of help, through co-investment by the Treasury, cheap loans from the Federal Reserve and guarantees from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). For every private dollar invested, the taxpayer will provide a matching dollar of equity and up to $12 of other financing. Investors can walk away from their debts if a deal loses money.

In theory, private buyers, bidding against each other, should be better than the government at determining the real value of assets. But some economists have denounced the plan as a disguised subsidy posing as a market solution. The taxpayer is on the hook for most of the losses but gets only half of the profits.

Mr Geithner sees this as a price worth paying to unclog banks’ balance-sheets. And this is a cost that America has swallowed before to get out of trouble. Like the new plan, the Resolution Trust Corporation, an entity set up to resolve the savings-and-loan crisis, used auctions and government co-investment to attract buyers. Some of them made fortunes, but the mechanism helped the market to clear and was deemed a success.

This time, too, the sweet terms have piqued the interest of big fund managers, such as BlackRock and PIMCO. The biggest obstacle to their participation is no longer financial risk but the political sort, thanks to the bonus frenzy over American International Group (AIG). The Obama administration may have toned down its Wall Street-bashing, and Congress is rethinking its plan to tax bonuses at up to 90%. But many still worry that they could become a target if they reap big windfalls. Some fear that low-cost leverage might tempt buyers to overpay. Barclays Capital thinks it could lift market prices by 10-20%. The Treasury argues that these prices are artificially depressed because of illiquidity, though more pessimistic types suspect that they merely reflect future losses. Such concerns explain why, although stockmarkets leapt when the plan was announced, credit markets—generally a more reliable barometer—reacted less enthusiastically. Indices linked to risky mortgages remained near record lows.
这一次这些诱人的条件同样引起了例如黑石基金、太平洋投资管理基金等基金经理的兴趣。 由于AIG的红利事件,他们参与进来的最大障碍不再是金融风险,而是政治风险。奥巴马政府对华尔街的压制或许已经有所缓和,国会也在重新考虑高达90%的红利税计划。但是许多人仍然担心他们如果捞到了好处就会再次成为靶子。一些人担心低息的信贷可能使购买者出价太高。Barclays Capital认为这可能把市场价格抬高10-20%。财政部反驳说价格因为缺乏流动性而被人为压低了,尽管更悲观的观点怀疑低价格只不过反映了未来的损失。这些担心解释了为什么当收购计划宣布以后股市上扬,而作为更可靠的晴雨表的信贷市场却反应平淡。与风险抵押贷款相关的指标仍然处在历史低位。

If the plan falls flat, however, it is more likely to be because of a lack of sellers. Many banks are still holding assets, particularly whole loans, at values far above their market price because, under accrual accounting, losses can be booked over several years (see article). Even with government help, bids may not be high enough to tempt banks to deal, since any price below the carrying value would force them to take a write-down and deplete precious capital.
An example of this problem is adjustable-rate mortgages. Wells Fargo has written its portfolio (largely inherited from the acquisition of Wachovia) down to around 70 cents on the dollar. But the market price is half that. With leverage, a buyer might be prepared to pay close to its estimated “economic value” if held to maturity. But this is only perhaps 60 cents. Why sell now, and take an immediate ten-cent hit, when you can spread out the pain by holding on to the loans?
如果计划失败,其实,因缺少卖家它很可能失败。许多银行仍然持有其价值高于市场价格的资产,尤其是整体贷款,因为在权责发生制下,损失可以在许多年后才入账。即使有了政府资助,竞买价格仍旧不足使银行进行交易,因为任何低于账面价值的价格都会迫使银行进行核销操作并消耗掉宝贵的资金。例如可调利率抵押贷款。Wells Fargo已经把他的资产组合(大部分来自于收购Wachovia)的价值消减到70美分。但是市场价格却是它的一半。通过贷款,如果持有到期的话,购买者可能打算出价在与估计的“经济价值”相近的水平。但这也可能才60美分。当你可以通过坚持持有贷款而把痛苦分散出去,谁会现在卖并直接损失10美分呢?

This problem is less acute in mortgage-backed securities, which holders of all stripes have been more willing to write down. Indeed, those banks, such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, that have been most assiduous in marking to market expect to be able to sell some of their holdings for a higher price, boosting their bottom line. They may use these gains to repay TARP investments: Goldman is reportedly keen to pay back its $10 billion as early as next month.

The key to encouraging selling could be the “stress tests” being conducted on the 19 largest banks, which are due to conclude in late April. Regulators might use these to force over-optimistic banks to write loans down to levels at which they would find takers in “shotgun sales”, in the process topping them up with fresh capital in return for a bigger government stake. Sheila Bair, the FDIC’s chairman, indicated this week that banks would be given a nudge.

Still, some fear that the plan may not be big enough. Firepower of up to $1 trillion may sound a lot, but much more than that amount is in danger of souring in America as consumer credit deteriorates and more companies default. With little chance of wringing more bail-out money from Congress, barring a stunning change of mood, the new plan could hit a funding wall.

To date, just under half of the TARP’s $700 billion has been disbursed. Add in the toxic-asset plan, and the total climbs to as much as $608 billion. With large dollops needed to plug banks’ capital holes once the stress tests are completed, and other industries clamouring for help, the remaining $92 billion may fall short of what is required. One hope of topping up the pot may lie in an expansion of the FDIC’s emergency credit line, from $30 billion to as much as $500 billion, though that would require congressional approval.

So Mr Geithner faces hard choices. He will desperately want the new plan to succeed, not least because its failure could unseat him. He is already reeling from criticism that he was slow to respond to the AIG handouts. Now, at least, he has provided a detailed scheme, even if there is still devil in the details. America can claim to be tackling its troubled assets.

Whether it has picked the right approach is another matter. The alternative chosen by Britain, to leave the assets in place and insure them for a fee, has many proponents—indeed, America did just that with the worst assets of Citigroup and Bank of America, but rejected it as a system-wide solution. Others continue to push the nationalise-and-recapitalise option, though this remains politically unpalatable in America. World leaders must hope that, in banking as in narcotics, there are numerous paths to rehabilitation.
尽管 是不是换成 但是 更好?

2)The taxpayer is on the hook for most of the losses
纳税人承担大部分损失的风险。on the hook for 有 冒险 的意思

3)the sweet terms
(2)The taxpayer is on the hook for most of the losses
go on the hook for
1. [美国英语] [俚语] 为(某人、某事)而负债(或借钱)
2. 为(某人)冒险


另外最不解的一句是:If the plan falls flat, however, it is more likely to be because of a lack of sellers.这句话,感觉整句话都是由if引导的,好像没说完似的。希望高人指正。
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