Sunday, 16 March 2008


As the story of the global subprime crisis unfolded, last week we yet again found another name to scare us. Bear Stearns the US investment Bank was the latest one to hit the head lines with it facing a sudden cash crunch due to the piling up of unsaleable mortagage backed securities. Fearing the massive possible repercussions in the US finanacial markets especially , a federal Reserve orchestrated move saw JP Morgan, Bear Stearns rival, lend cash to Bear Stearns for 28 days on a secured basis. Has it been bailed out? Is the issue put to rest once and for all?

Probabaly no. The unsaleable papers do not transform to saleable ones in a months time. Hence follow up action can be almost certain from the Fed and JP Morgan is likely to lend a helping hand yet again.

In all probability we may witness a take over of Bear Stearns by JP Morgan. Atleast it seems to be a strong possibility as the heated weekend meetings suggest between Bear Stearns, JP Morgan & JC Flowers , another US bank which may make a bid for parts of the Bear Stearns business as it does not have the where withal to take over the entire business of BS unlike JP Morgan which can.

Its attractive looking from JP Morgan side too. Bear Stearns which was trading at $160 per share last April is at $36 now. In all probability JP Morgan is likely to offer a price not more than $15 per share. What helps them further is that S&P recently down graded BS to "BBB" from "A" ,which is now just above the junk bonds. The down grading further ensured that the market may not touch BS even witha a barging pole making its operations difficult, for a while atleast. Also JP Morgan may not lend much credence to the BS book value of $80 per share. The icing on the cake might probabaly be the swanky BS buliding in New York, much liked by the JP Morgan CEO Jamie Damon, as compared to the austere surroundings at the JP Morgan building around the corner.

Probabaly those who had the hardest bump of all were the BS employees. Not that they will face retrenchment. Infact many of them will be inevitable if JP Morgan is to run the show. The bump is hard simply because they own 25% of BS and most of them have their net worths already eroded significantly. Each one of them must surely be ruing the failure to cash in on time and take early retirement and instead are sprucing up for more hard work ahead.

Yet another set of losers may be in the New york Metro area, where the Highly paid , High Net worth BS employees, including BS CEO Allan Schwartz, will be found with tighter purse strings.

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