Hypo Real Estate, Germany’s second largest real estate lender, teeters on the verge of collapse. The bank has a €400 billion balance sheet, which would make for a failure of a similar scale to Lehman’s (Hypo’s footings are roughly $550 billion, while Lehman’s were $660 billion as of its last balance sheet date).
Even though Hypo it technically a bank, it is not a depositary institution, so rescuing it poses similar difficulties (procedural and political) to the authorities as Bear and Lehman did in the US. The financial system cannot take another body blow of this magnitude. The authorities had better patch this one up over the weekend, or we face even more credit market panic on Monday.
And if that weren’t an ugly enough picture, the failure to salvage Hypo has even broader ramifications. From Marshall Auerbach, independent global strategist who does consultancy for a number of funds, and sometimes financial commentator, via e-mail:
The euro is in serious trouble with this Hypo Real Estate collapse. Germans remain completely in denial. The French get it, largely because their clever finance minister, Christine LaGarde, was educated at the University of Chicago and consequently understands something about markets. Sarkozy, to his credit, appears to be listening to her. The Germans are about to destroy EMU with their pigheadedness, and this will be the stuff of revolution, given that the German people were never consulted on abandoning the DM (if there had been a referendum, the euro would have never been accepted in Germany) and were forced to get rid of arguably the most successful post-war monetary institution, the Bundesbank.
The sop thrown their way was the stupid Stability and Growth Pact, designed by former German Finance Minister, Theo Waigel. So he has hoisted the Germans and the euro zone on a German petard. And that’s made things worse! No EU wide guarantee of deposits, no EU-wide prospect of a major fiscal stimulus and bye bye euro.
Ed Harrison of Credit Writedowns provided a translation from Der Spiegel. Key sections:
HRE spokesman Obermeier did not want to comment Spiegel Online as to reports that the liquidity Gap of the bank could reach 70 to 100 billion euros by the end of 2009. He could only confirm that the consortium’s original aid pledge had been withdrawn. “Why, we do not know,” Obermeier said. He said there were clear signals from the shareholders and Government, that they wanted to cooperate to find a solution to the problem….
Sources close to [Finance] Minister Steinbrueck said that the Finance Ministry had not been informed of the changed situation in advance by either Hypo Real Estate or the consortium of banks. The government was informed only through ad hoc communication with HRE that the rescue package had collapsed. “We will now try to pick up the pieces on Sunday,” the Ministry of Finance said. The aid plan, agreed to one week ago, foresaw a short-term loan of 15 billion euros and a long-term refinancing of up to 35 billion euros in the second half of 2009.
“Die Welt am Sonntag” had previously reported that Deutsche Bank had found in a study that HRE already clearly needed more money in the short-term. According to the Deutsche Bank report, the company would lack up to 50 billion euros by the end of the year and even as high as 70 to 100 billion euros by the end of 2009….
“If there is no solution when stock markets open on Monday morning, the company won’t make it two more days,” said a banker.
This week, the Bundesbank and the BaFin had labeled the rescue operation which is now collapsing as vital to avoid “severe disruptions to the financial markets”. In a letter from the Bundesbank and BaFin to Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck it was said that otherwise the German financial and economic system would be threatened by “similar unforeseeable consequences” as after the collapse of the U.S. financial group Lehman Brothers.
Bloomberg reports more clearly than Der Spiegel did that the bailout package may have been inadequate even over the coming weeks:
Hypo Real Estate’s financing needs exceeded the bailout plan guarantee, Germany’s Die Welt reported yesterday, citing unnamed people in the finance industry. It will need 20 billion euros by the end of next week and 50 billion euros by the end of the year, according to the newspaper. As much as 100 billion euros may be needed to shore up the bank’s finances by the end of 2009, Die Welt said. Obermeier declined to comment.
The European Central Bank and the Bundesbank planned to contribute jointly 20 billion euros, and a group of unidentified banks another 15 billion euros. The plan called for Hypo Real Estate to use 42 billion euros in assets, mostly debt owed by government borrowers, as collateral.
Further detail from Reuters:
Property lender Hypo Real Estate fought for its life on Saturday after German banks and insurers pulled out of a state-led 35 billion euro ($48.5 billion) rescue program stitched together only days ago.
The news is a fresh blow for the global financial system struggling to master an unprecedented crisis of confidence and poses a political challenge for the Berlin government, which has been fighting efforts to arrange a pan-European bank bailout.
“The 35 billion euro rescue package promised to the Hypo Real Estate Group and extending into 2009 announced last week is currently withdrawn,” the Munich-based real estate and public-sector lender said in a brief statement.
“The intended rescue package involved a liquidity line to be provided by a consortium of several financial institutions. The consortium has now declined to provide the line.”
And Times Online:
The breakdown of the rescue of Hypo Real Estate will send fresh alarm through the markets that a raft of emergency measures enacted by European governments as well as the approval of the historic $700 billion (£396 billion) bailout by the American government in the last week have done little to keep the crisis from deepening.
Under the Hypo deal, which had been brokered by Berlin last week, a consortium of German banks had agreed to put up about €8.5 billion of a €35 billion emergency credit injection to keep the company afloat. The German taxpayer would have footed the rest of the bill.