Warren Buffett's Next Big Investment Idea Has Everyone Baffled
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway(BRK-B) aren't exactly unknowns in the business community, so it is odd that their bid for Residential Capital LLC appears to be attracting relatively little attention in the mortgage servicing industry, where ResCap is the fifth-largest player in the U.S.
Buffett seems to want to keep the low profile going. Reached on his office phone, Buffett said, "I really can't help you. Thanks anyway," before hanging up.
Servicers act as middlemen in the mortgage business, collecting payments from borrowers and passing them on to lenders. Typically, they are the first point of contact for homeowners who have an issue with their mortgage, though homeowners often don't have a very clear understanding of who servicers are or what their role is.
The four largest U.S. banks are still the largest mortgage servicers, though with the exception of Wells Fargo(WFC) , they are exiting the business as little-known names like Ocwen Financial(OCN) and Nationstar Mortgage Holdings(NSM) look to grow.
And then there is Berkshire, which lost out to Nationstar in a contest to be the opening--known as the "stalking horse"--bidder for ResCap's mortgage servicing portfolio on Tuesday. However, Berkshire succeeded in lowering the breakup fee that will be paid to Nationstar if it is not ultimately selected to acquire the portfolio, thereby increasing Berkshire's chances of winning it.
Berkshire came virtually out of nowhere this month to enter the bidding process, and it still seems to be having trouble being taken seriously by the mortgage servicing industry.
For example, Keefe Bruyette & Woods analyst Bose George expressed surprise in a note published late Monday after Berkshire raised its bid for the ResCap platform, which includes mortgage servicing rights on 2.4 million homes.
"The increased Berkshire bid suggests the company might be genuinely interested in purchasing this platform, which if successful could create a strong competitor. We originally assumed that Berkshire's only interest was in protecting its bond position," George wrote.