Wednesday, September 17, 2008

World News : Lehman Brothers needs help??

World News : Lehman Brothers needs help??
A last-ditch effort to find a buyer for troubled Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers appeared near collapse Sunday as British bank Barclays pulled out of talks.

As emergency weekend talks on Lehman's woes were being held in New York, a London source at Barclays, who requested anonymity, said it walked away from negotiations because of concerns it would have to guarantee the 158-year-old US firm's trading commitments.

The source did not say whether its position was likely to change.

The news came as US Treasury and Federal Reserve officials scrambled to avert a liquidation of Lehman Brothers which some say could send shockwaves through the global financial system.

"Clearly things are changing quickly and are very fluid," said David Kotok, chief investment officer at Cumberland Investments.

"The Fed and the Treasury are trying to get a deal done before the markets open on Monday. It now appears that this original effort to merge Lehman with one party has failed."

Meanwhile specter of liquidation loomed: the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, a group of market dealers, said it was holding a special trading session Sunday "to reduce risk associated with a potential Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. bankruptcy filing."

It said any trades were contingent on a bankruptcy filing Sunday.

"I think the most likely option for Lehman is a bankruptcy filing by the end of the day today," said Peter Cohan of the consulting firm Peter Cohan & Associates.

Barry Ritholtz of the research firm FusionIQ said a bankruptcy could mean further financial market turmoil.

"We are now on bankruptcy watch, with the midnight hour as the key line in the sand." he said. "The Wall Street open Monday in the event of a Lehman failure will be wild."

According to some analysts, the talks on Lehman Brothers were snagged over whether the Federal Reserve would guarantee a deal with Lehman's troubled mortgage securities as was done to avert a meltdown earlier this year of Bear Stearns, bought by JPMorgan Chase.

"We infer that the problem at Lehman is bigger or worse than at Bear Stearns or both," Kotok said.

"That means the Fed is trying to avoid more use of its balance sheet."

Peter Morici, economist at the University of Maryland, said finding a buyer for Lehman Brothers may be difficult because of its "toxic" holdings in soured real estate assets.

"No other large firm should buy Lehman whole -- its toxic real estate and securities are too difficult to value," he said. "Only a fool would think he could fairly assess their value, unless those are assigned them a value of zero."

Meanwhile Bank of America, described in recent days as a leading takeover candidate for Lehman Brothers, was now in advanced discussions to buy Merrill Lynch, another Wall Street giant ravaged by the subprime real estate crisis and credit crunch.

The New York Times said the talks centered around a buyout of Merrill at 25 to 30 dollars a share in stock, making the deal worth some 38 billion dollars. Merrill ended Friday at 17.05 dollars.

Lehman shares have tumbled more than 90 percent this year and failed to recover on plans announced Wednesday to sell off key assets to shore up its finances.

The beleaguered Wall Street firm, seen as in desperate need for a capital injection, lost an estimated 3.9 billion dollars in its fiscal third quarter amid fresh writedowns on mortgage assets.

World News : Lehman Brothers needs help??

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