Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Three brief items

1. More on Porsche, VW, etc.

A report in today's Wall Street Journal says that several hedge funds have taken a beating as a result of their speculation in VW shares, and the spike in VW's share price I discussed in yesterday's entry.

"Those affected by the moves include Greenlight Capital, SAC Capital, Glenview Capital, Marshall Wace, Tiger Asia, Perry Capital, and Highside Capital," the p. C1 story said.

There have been rumors of effects going beyond that list, and beyond the hedge fund world.

2. Ackman has a plan for Target

Pershing Square Capital Management, which owns nearly 10% of the giant retailer Target, said it has a plan for a transaction that will boost Target's value. It will present its plan today, Wednesday.

Bill Ackman is the principal of Pershing Square, a hedge fund that has been involved in some memorable corporate in-fighting over the years. To his credit, Ackman was arguing in a very public way, before it became a commonsensical observation, that credit ratings agencies and banks were co-operating to prop up bond insurers such as MBIA so that the banks wouldn't have to write down their exposure to such insurers.

Anyway, Pershing's latest statement on Target is as follows: "Pershing Square believes that the insights gained by sharing the potential transaction in a public forum will benefit Target and all of its stakeholders."

One clue to what he has in mind: Mr. Ackman recently expressed interest in a potential derivatives transaction that he said would let Target effectively retire more of its own shares. That provides a nice segway to my final item of the morning.

3. Canada wants to restrict bank share buybacks

The most important fnancial regulator in Canada at the federal level, the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, put out an advisory note Monday that banks shouldn't be buying back their own shares. That runs counter to the goal of strengthening their balance sheets.

Canada's banks are in general in better shape than those in the US or in Europe, where as one would expect the temptation to buyback/retire shares just isn't a big problem right now. Canada's financial institutions generally have a strong retailing base, and their mortgage-lending practices have remained conservative. So I'm a bit baffled by the SFI's concern.

Apparently, though, he thinks their practices may not be quite conservative enough. The SFI's note said: "The current environment calls for increased conservatism in capital management."

No comments: