Fed Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac bail out – what next?

By now everyone has heard about the historic bail out of Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE) by the government. In the short term this looks like a good move. The two companies are saved from insolvency and they can continue with business as usual. Is this good or bad in the long run? I think it depends on how ready FHA is to take the lead in mortgage lending in America.

Look at some of the ramification of the take over.

  1. The CEOs will be fired – Great… it should have happened a long time ago.
  2. The boards will be replaced – same as above!
  3. There will be restructuring of the balance sheets – not so good!

The devil is always in the details.

The restructuring will result in a new class of stock to be created that has precedence over current stock holders. This new senior preferred stock will earn 10% a year.

Fannie and Freddie will be required to make major cuts in their mortgage holdings. Over several years they will have to cut their portfolios by almost 70%.

Mortgage rates are currently in the 6% range – Fannie and Freddie will be forced to borrow at 10% – you do the math!

With Fannie and Freddie cutting their portfolios by more than two-thirds this means that conventional mortgage money will be choked at the source.

This leaves FHA as the sole survivor. Let’s face it with Fannie and Freddie cut to one-third of their original size they will become secondary players. Is HUD prepared for the role it is being thrust into. For years this agency has taken a back seat and is now at 3 times it’s former production levels. This change will put a substantially larger burden on HUD.

Let’s hope that HUD is up to the challenge.

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