Stockholders Socked as J.P. Morgan Acquires Bear Stearns in Weekend Rescue
The news wasn't surprising but the price tag was a real stunner.
On Sunday J.P. Morgan chase agreed to pay $2 per share to
acquire failing Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns, lock,
stock, and barrel. And the purchase price, by the way, will be paid entirely
in stock and includes purchase of the company's 45 story New York office tower.
Starting on Thursday Bear Stearns began to suffer what was really an old fashioned
run on the bank. Monies held by investment banks have no federal insurance such
as that obtained by commercial and retail banks through the FDIC. Bear Stearns,
which wrote off $1.9 billion in losses last quarter largely due to its investments
in the subprime market announced Friday morning that its financial condition
had deteriorated significantly overnight and cast doubt on its own survival.
It then arranged to access the Federal Reserve's emergency finance facility,
known as the discount window, with the assistance of J.P. Morgan because, again,
investment banks do not have such federal assistance. The emergency funds were
lent for a period of 28 days and secured by collateral but Bear Stearns recourse
to such measures led to wide-spread speculation that the huge bank's days
It was widely rumored over the weekend that J.P. Morgan would be acquiring Bear
Stearns and the price that was being bandied about as late as the evening news
on Sunday was $30 per share - the closing price of the stock on Friday after
it dropped 47 percent in trading that day. But the total value of the transaction,
about $236 million, is a fraction of the market value of Bear Stearns on Friday
- $3.5 billion. One year ago Bear Stearns stock was selling for $170
According to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, The Federal Reserve
is providing as much as $30 billion in financing for Bear Stearns' less-liquid
assets such as mortgage securities. If these assets lose even more value it
will be the Fed that will take the hit, not J.P. Morgan.
Apparently even as frantic negotiations were going on to complete the J.P.
Morgan acquisition on Sunday before the Asian markets opened, Bear Stearns was
simultaneously preparing documents for a bankruptcy filing.
Bear Stearns had been one of the biggest gamblers (although we were calling
them "investors" at the time) in the mortgage securities business. It provided
large lines of credit to several subprime lenders including the now-bankrupt
New Century Mortgage and owns EMC Mortgage Servicing,
a subprime mortgage servicer. It underwrote Alt-A mortgages (those that, in
terms of risk, fall between prime and subprime paper) and, according to Bloomberg
News, in February the seriously delinquent/in foreclosure rate for its Alt-A
loans was 15 percent, nearly twice the industry average.
Monday promises to be a rocky day as nervous investors question the viability
of other big banks and wonder if the Federal Reserve will continue to step in
to shore up or save others that, like Bear Stearns, are considered "too
big to fail."