Freddie Mac has a plan to stay in business and save taxpayers money. One of the nation’s top mortgage lenders, Freddie Mac, has been facing some serious financial problems of late, which has had severe implications for the housing market and real estate industry. But, on Friday, Freddie Mac announced plans to raise $5.5 billion by selling common and preferred stock, in order to bolster their economic outlook.
This announcement may help aleve fears the housing market has of another government bailout. Freddie Mac had previously said it would raise that money, but on Friday it finally registered its stock with the Securities & Exchange Commission, a move that allows the company to proceed. This is good news to home buyers who count on Freddie Mac to purchase their first piece of real estate as well as people who fall in the higher-rick category. The housing market has definitely taken a downward spiral, but mortgage lenders may be the ones hurt the most in this situation because they run their businesses off giving people loans.
Raising, say, $2.75 billion by selling common stock at current prices would entail issuing more than 300 million shares – reducing current investors’ stake in the company by a third. Freddie would presumably raise the rest of the money by selling preferred stock, but that won’t come cheap either. Even though it is nice to see Freddie Mac trying to get themselves out of the hole they are in, they may still end up needing help from the government. That being said, the housing market needs Freddie Mac to stay in business, so it will behoove us all to root for a good outcome for this mortgage lender.
Selling this stock could help this company put itself in better position to weather the housing market meltdown and resume making money when the economy and real estate industry rebounds. It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for Freddie Mac, and the companies’ shares lost more than half their value last week, amid fears that falling house prices will lead to big losses on the mortgages the companies own and on the mortgage-backed securities they insure.
Even though this new plan of mortgage lender Freddie Mac is a sign of better days ahead, there are some who believe Freddie Mac should be nationalized, wiping out shareholders and putting an explicit government guarantee behind the companies’ obligations. But Treasury Secretary Paulson has said he believes the company should continue to be shareholder-owned. One of the reasons for this, according to experts, is that they “see a parallel in the Chrysler bailout of the early 1980s, in which the government took warrants in the automaker in exchange for providing an emergency loan guarantee, and when Chrysler returned to health later in the decade, the government was able to cash in the warrants, allowing taxpayers to share in the fruits of the company’s recovery.”
Whether or not Freddie Mac’s new financial plan works remains to be seen, but it does show that the mortgage lender is at least trying. The housing market needs mortgage lenders to survive this crash; otherwise we could all see ourselves renting for the rest of our lives. Real estate is cyclical, so there is no doubt there will be a rebound. The only question now, is when and how big?