Will Warren Buffett's Berkshire Join Fannie, Freddie Privatization Effort?
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway
Currently, Fairholme Capital Management is offering to infuse $52 billion in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in an effort to bring private capital to both GSEs' traditional mortgage-backed securities insurance business. The deal would liquidate Fannie and Freddie at a profit to the U.S. Treasury, Fairholme said in a recent presentation , and put the private market behind new mortgages issued in 2014 and beyond.
Holders of Fannie and Freddie preferred stock would have their claims exchanged for new equity in the MBS insurance business and they would inject an additional $17.3 billion through a rights offering. Fairholme's proposal would also rely on the creation of two new state-regulated private insurers to recapitalize Fannie and Freddie and underwrite new business without a federal charter.
It is the latter that might intrigue Berkshire Hathaway, even if Buffett were reticent to invest directly in Fannie and Freddie's private recapitalization.
A source familiar with Fairholme's proposal said the fund reached out to a host of insurance companies when putting together its initial privatization plan.
Given Berkshire's history with GSEs and its exposure to the housing market, it wouldn't be a shock if the company were interested in participating in a private mortgage insurance regime to replace the federal government's backstop. However, the resolution of Fannie and Freddie already has competing House and Senate bills, in addition to common and preferred shareholders whom expect a payout for their holdings.
Fairholme also has relationships with other large U.S. insurers. The fund is a large shareholder in insurers AIG
"[We] were one of the earliest investors to support AIG after the 2008 economic crisis, ultimately helping to validate the restructuring plan implemented by the United States Treasury," Fairholme said in its proposal.
Fairholme Capital Management, AIG and Leucadia National declined to comment. Berkshire Hathaway didn't return multiple emails seeking comment.
In the late 1980s, Buffett became a shareholder in Fannie Mae when then-CEO David Maxwell executed a turnaround of the company in the wake of the savings and loan crisis. Buffett, however, stopped buying Fannie's stock as the price rose and sold the stake, leaving profits on the table.
"I wish I could give you a halfway rational explanation for my amateurish behavior vis-a-vis Fannie Mae. But there isn't one. What I can give you is an estimate as of year-end 1991 of the approximate gain that Berkshire didn't make because of your Chairman's mistake: about $1.4 billion," Buffett said in his 1991 letter to shareholders.