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MBIA Bulls Differ on Bank of America Life or Death Deal

Tickers in this article: BAC MBI

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- MBIA(MBI) bulls are far apart over when they believe the cash-strapped insurer may reach what they believe is a potential $2 billion to $3 billion deal with Bank of America (BAC) over mortgage-related liability, a pair of research notes published Monday shows.

At issue is a long-running and complex legal battle between the two institutions, which could mean life or death for MBIA. MBIA has sued Bank of America, arguing the bank's Countrywide unit made false representations in mortgages it sold and MBIA agreed to insure. Meanwhile, Bank of America has challenged the insurer's separation into two separate legal entities in an attempt to protect its municipal insurance business from mortgage-related liability.

If MBIA can't separate itself and can't recoup money from Bank of America, it could be in serious jeopardy. While such a scenario seems unlikely, Bank of America has far deeper pockets. So far, at least, the giant bank has succeeded in delaying the legal proceedings as MBIA continues to bleed cash.

MBIA's parent company had $298 million in cash and cash equivalents as of Sept. 30, down from $473 million at the end of 2011. It has since spent $170 million to buy back some of its bonds. A subsidiary, MBIA Insurance, had an additional $60 million in cash and cash equivalents on Sept. 30 and $386 million of "cash and highly liquid assets," according to financial statements.

MBIA isn't widely followed by sell-side analysts, though three who do follow the stock are extremely bullish--expecting a rise of anywhere from 50-200% over the next 12 months. However, a resolution of MBIA's litigation with Bank of America is crucial to that thesis.

Two of those analysts, Rob Haines of Creditsights and Mark Palmer of BTIG Research, have argued a settlement could occur any day. MKM Partners analyst Harry Fong, on the other hand, argued in a note published Monday he expects Bank of America to be slow to reach a deal.

"We no longer believe MBIA and Bank of America will announce a global economic settlement anytime soon," wrote Fong, who has been increasingly skeptical a deal is imminent. In a Nov. 19 note, he wrote "we could easily paint a picture that shows this case, if it goes all the way to trial, will not reach a final conclusion until the end of 2014 or 2015."

In Monday's note, Fong argued Bank of America will wait until it has concluded a separate but related $8.5 billion settlement reached with several large financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs (GS) , Blackrock(BLK) , PIMCOand the Federal Reserve Bank of New York over so-called "private label" mortgage securities. That settlement has been challenged by several parties, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

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