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On October 21st, FHFA released projections showing a range of possible additional draws from the U.S. Treasury required by Fannie Mae (FMNA.OB) and Freddie Mac (OTCQB:FMCC). The report was interesting because it included projections about the companies’ future revenues, expenses and net income. Although the projections are not detailed by income statement line item, they do imply that Freddie Mac will be profitable in 2011 and Fannie Mae will be profitable in 2013 in the base case scenario.

How do you conclude Freddie Mac will be profitable in 2011?

In the FHFA’s projections, the regulator shows a chart projecting future draws from the Treasury for each company. Here’s Freddie’s chart:

By focusing on the base scenario (or Scenario 2 in the chart), we can see that the FHFA projects Freddie Mac to require a $10 billion draw from the Treasury in the 2nd half of 2010, a $3 billion draw from the Treasury in 2011 and no draws in 2012 and beyond. The draws included payments made back to the Treasury for the Zombie Dividends* on the Treasury’s senior preferred stock, which has the usury rate of 10%. The draws from the Treasury are equivalent to Net Income Available to Common Shareholders.

“Net Income” is more useful than “Net Income Available to Common Shareholders” in determining whether Freddie Mac is a viable entity because it is not obscured by the Zombie Dividends paid to the Treasury. I reviewed the reasons why the Treasury should reduce the dividend rate on its GSE senior preferred stock in previous articles.

2H10 2011 2012 2013
Previous cumulative draw from Treasury -63 -73 -76 -76
Net Income -7 4 7 7
Treasury Zombie Dividends -3 -7 -7 -7
Net Income available to Common Shareholders (i.e., current draw from Treasury) -10 -3 0 0
Cumulative draw from Treasury -73 -76 -76 -76

Using the similar information for Fannie Mae, the FHFA implies that Fannie will turn profitable in 2013.

How can you say Freddie Mac will be profitable but still require draws from the Treasury?

I am most focused on whether Freddie Mac can report profits before dividend payments to the Treasury. I view the net income line item of Freddie Mac as the best indicator of the profit earning capability of the corporate entity. I view the senior preferred stock issued to the Treasury as an expensive form of capital that can be restructured if the underlying company is profitable. For example, if Freddie restructured the Treasury’s sake in a similar manner to the AIG restructuring, the Treasury’s senior preferred would be converted in common stock and the Zombie Dividends would be eliminated.

What happens if the scenarios in the FHFA’s projections are too optimistic?

If anything, Freddie’s results might be better than the base case scenario of these projections because the assumptions behind these projections are conservative. Here are the possible areas of conservatism:

  1. Zero growth in credit guaranty business Although growth in this business has been negative single digits for the past year, this will not always be the case. With the housing market weak, mortgage debt outstanding has been falling. Plus, the FHA has recently raised prices, so I would expect for more market share for the GSEs in the short-term. The private-label mortgage securities is years away from becoming a competitor again. Growth in this business will resume with the continued recovery in the housing market.
  2. No additional retained portfolio business Although this business is mandated to shrink, I believe this assumption is more aggressive than the mandated decline in the mortgage portfolio. The portfolio is the main way the GSEs are generating revenue right now. These revenues are offsetting the losses in the credit business. I think it is foolish to shrink this business since the FHFA itself has said most of the losses came from the credit business.
  3. No recognition of Deferred Tax Asset valueBased on the limited information in the projections, it does not appear as though the GSEs are given credit for a revaluation of their deferred tax-asset once they demonstrate a return to sustained profitability. Recognizing this asset will create capital in the near-term to allow an accelerated payback to the Treasury.
  4. 5% drop in ABX and CMBX This assumption has already proven false since we know these markets have been strong since the June 30, 2009 start of the projections.
  5. Regulator has incentive to be conservative - Government projections have been consistently conservative coming out of the financial crisis. No one at the FHFA has any desire to raise expectations and have to reverse course down the road.

Conclusion

Fannie and Freddie are not endless black holes of losses. The total loss is becoming clear with passage of time. Eventually, the Treasury may get paid back for its capital investment into the companies. Profitable companies with poor capital structures lead to restructuring opportunities.

The point of this article is there a potential restructuring opportunity in Freddie Mac’s capital structure because the corporate entity will turn profitable in 2011. The potential reform of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae will be near impossible as liberals want a full nationalization of the companies and conservatives want complete privatization. Neither scenario is pragmatic. The clearest path is to do no damage to the housing market and modify the current form of Fannie and Freddie. This is the path of least resistance politically and the least risky option economically.

Possible options for modifying Fannie and Freddie are to improve their business practices: 1) prohibit low doc and no doc lending, 2) prohibit investment in private label mortgage securities, and 3) give the FHFA authority over both housing goals and safety and soundness with a priority on safety and soundness.

Disclaimer - Please do not buy the common stock because you read this article. I believe the common stock does not have much upside because 1) the Treasury owns an 80% warrant on both companies, 2) there is a potential for additional dilution through a preferred for common swap to restructure the Treasury’s senior preferred stock, and 3) one or both of the GSEs could be put through receivership and wipe out common shareholders entirely.

* Zombie Dividends – I call the dividend payments on the Treasury’s senior preferred stock Zombie Dividends because Treasury Secretary Paulson wanted the GSE’s dead at the time he put them into Conservatorship. He forced them to pay a 10% dividend rate to the Treasury on its senior preferred stock investment. No other financial institution has had to actually pay to the government a 10% rate like the GSEs have. The commercial banks pay a 5% rate on the TARP preferred stock. AIG initially had to pay a 10% rate, but it was restructured into a non-cumulative preferred stock and AIG Board of Directors has chosen not to pay the dividend since early 2009.

Disclosure: Author is long Freddie Mac preferred stock and Fannie Mae preferred stock

Source: FHFA Implies Freddie Mac Will Be Profitable in 2011