We are a specialty finance company organized as a real estate investment trust, or REIT, which invests in mortgage loans and securities on a leveraged basis. We were incorporated in Virginia on December 18, 1987 and commenced operations in February 1988. We invest in residential mortgage-backed securities, or MBS, issued or guaranteed by a federally chartered corporation, such as Federal National Mortgage Corporation, or Fannie Mae, or Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or Freddie Mac, or an agency of the U.S. government, such as Government National Mortgage Association, or Ginnie Mae. MBS issued or guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae are commonly referred to as “Agency MBS”. We initiated our Agency MBS strategy during the first quarter of 2008.
We are also invested in securitized residential and commercial mortgage loans, non-agency mortgage-backed securities, or non-Agency MBS, and, through a joint venture, commercial mortgage-backed securities (“CMBS”). Substantially all of these loans and securities, including those owned by the joint venture, consist of, or are secured by, first lien mortgages which were originated by us from 1992 to 1998. We are no longer originating loans.
We have generally financed our investments through a combination of repurchase agreements, securitization financing, and equity capital. We employ leverage in order to increase the overall yield on our invested capital. Our primary source of income is net interest income, which is the excess of the interest income earned on our investments over the cost of financing these investments. We may occasionally sell investments prior to their maturity.
As a REIT, we are required to distribute to shareholders as dividends at least 90% of our taxable income, which is our income as calculated for tax, after consideration of any tax net operating loss, or NOL, carryforwards. We had an NOL carryforward of approximately $150 million at December 31, 2007. We have not completed our tax return for the year ended December 31, 2008, but we do not believe there will be a material change in the balance of our NOL. These NOLs were principally generated during 1999 and 2000 and do not begin to meaningfully expire until 2019. Provided that we do not experience an ownership shift as defined under Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code, or Code, we may utilize the NOLs to offset portions of our distribution requirements for our REIT taxable income with certain limitations. If we do incur an ownership shift under Section 382 of the Code then the use of the NOLs to offset REIT distribution requirements may be limited. We also have a taxable REIT subsidiary which has an NOL carryforward of approximately $4 million at December 31, 2008. For further discussion, see “Federal Income Tax Considerations.”
With respect to our investment in Agency MBS, we invest in Hybrid Agency ARMs and Agency ARMs (both defined below) and, to a lesser extent, fixed-rate Agency MBS. At December 31, 2008, we had approximately $218.1 million in Hybrid Agency ARMs and approximately $93.4 million in Agency ARMs. Our Agency MBS portfolio collateralized approximately $274.2 million in repurchase agreement borrowings as of December 31, 2008 used to finance their purchase as discussed further below.
Hybrid ARMs are MBS securities collateralized by hybrid adjustable mortgage loans, which have a fixed rate of interest for a specified period (typically three to ten years) and which then adjust their interest rate at least annually to an increment over a specified interest rate index. Hybrid Agency ARMs are Hybrid ARMs that are issued or guaranteed by a federally chartered corporation or an agency of the U.S. government. Agency ARMs are MBS securities collateralized by adjustable rate mortgage loans which have interest rates that generally will adjust at least annually to an increment over a specified interest rate index. Agency ARMs may be collateralized by Hybrid Agency ARMs that are past their fixed rate periods.
Interest paid on Agency MBS is based on the interest paid by the underlying mortgage loans. Interest rates on the adjustable rate loans collateralizing the Hybrid Agency ARMs or Agency ARMs are based on specific index rates, such as the one-year constant maturity treasury, or CMT rate, the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, the Federal Reserve U.S. 12-month cumulative average one-year CMT, or MTA, or the 11th District Cost of Funds Index, or COFI. These loans will typically have interim and lifetime caps on interest rate adjustments, or interest rate caps, limiting the amount that the rates on these loans may reset in any given period.
We also have investments in securitized commercial mortgage and single-family residential loans previously originated by us from 1992 to 1998. At December 31, 2008, we had $172.0 million in securitized commercial mortgage loans and $71.9 million in securitized single-family mortgage loans. These mortgage loans represent first lien interests in commercial and single-family properties, are highly seasoned, and are pledged as collateral to support securitization financing. The commercial mortgage loans carried an average fixed rate of 8.3% at December 31, 2008. The single-family mortgage loans are predominantly variable rate based primarily on a spread to six month LIBOR. At December 31, 2008, the weighted average coupon on the single-family mortgage loans was 6.85%. As discussed below, we have the option to redeem the associated securitization financing under certain conditions and we have exercised this right in the past when economically beneficial to us. As of December 31, 2008, approximately $18.3 million in securitization financing was redeemable by us.
We also have other investments in non-Agency MBS, equity securities, and an investment in a joint-venture which owns CMBS which were issued by us in 1997 and 1998. The total of these investments was $15.5 million at December 31, 2008. The joint venture owns the right to redeem at par in whole or in part $193.7 million in commercial mortgage backed securities issued in 1998 beginning in February 2009. Approximately $124.3 million of these securities were rated ‘AAA’ by at least one of the nationally recognized ratings agency as of December 31, 2008. The current economic and market conditions make it unfeasible to redeem these bonds, and any future decision on whether to redeem these bonds will be based on the economic and market conditions at that time. The termination date for our investment in the joint venture is April 15, 2009, unless otherwise extended by the parties. We are currently working with our joint venture partner to determine what actions to take with regard to the joint venture. If the joint venture is terminated, we may purchase certain assets from the joint venture in connection with its termination.
Our new investment activity for 2008 was principally in Agency MBS. We expect to continue to invest in Agency MBS for the foreseeable future. We may also invest in non-Agency MBS or CMBS depending on the nature and risks of the investment, its expected return and future economic and market conditions. Where economically beneficial to us, we may also invest additional capital in our securitized mortgage loan pools by redeeming the associated securitization financing in whole or in part.
We generally finance our acquisition of Agency MBS by borrowing against a substantial portion of the market value of these assets utilizing repurchase agreements. Repurchase agreements are financings under which we pledge our Agency MBS as collateral to secure loans made by repurchase agreement counterparties (i.e., lenders). The amount borrowed under a repurchase agreement is limited to a specified percentage of the estimated market value of the pledged collateral generally between 90% and 95%. The difference between the market value of the pledged collateral and the amount of the repurchase agreement is referred to as our margin, and which is intended to provide the lender some protection against fluctuations of value in the collateral and/or the failure by us to repay the borrowing. Under our repurchase agreements, a lender may require that we pledge additional assets, by initiating a margin call, if the fair value of our existing pledged collateral declines below a required margin amount during the term of the borrowing. The required margin amount varies depending on the specific terms of a particular repurchase agreement. Our pledged collateral fluctuates in value primarily due to principal payments and changes in market interest rates, prevailing market yields, actual or anticipated prepayment speeds and other market conditions. Lenders may also initiate margin calls during periods of market stress. If we fail to meet any margin call, our lenders have the right to terminate the repurchase agreement and sell the collateral pledged. We generally expect to maintain an effective debt to equity capital ratio of between five and nine times our equity capital invested in Agency MBS, although the ratio may vary from time to time depending upon market conditions and other factors.
Repurchase agreement borrowings generally will have a term of between one and three months and carry a rate of interest based on a spread to an index, such as LIBOR. Repurchase agreement financing is provided principally by major financial institutions and major broker-dealers. A significant source of liquidity for the repurchase agreement market is money market funds which provide collateral based lending to the financial institutions and broker-dealer community which in turn is provided to the repurchase agreement market. In order to reduce our exposure to counterparty-related risk, we generally seek to diversify our exposure by entering into repurchase agreements with multiple lenders. At December 31, 2008, we had a maximum net exposure (the difference between the amount loaned to us, including interest payable, and the value of the securities pledged by us as collateral, including accrued interest receivable on such securities) to any single repurchase agreement lender of $5.5 million.
Interest rates on Agency MBS assets will not reset as frequently as the interest rates on repurchase agreement borrowings. As a result, we are exposed to reductions in our net interest income earned during a period of rising rates. In an effort to protect our net interest income during a period of rising interest rates, we would attempt to extend the interest rate reset dates on our repurchase agreement borrowings. In addition, in a period of rising rates we may experience a decline in the carrying value of our Agency MBS, which would impact our shareholders’ equity and common book value per share. In an effort to protect our book value per common share as well as our net interest income during a period of rising rates, we may utilize derivative financial instruments such as interest rate swap agreements. An interest rate swap agreement would allow us to fix the borrowing cost on a portion of our repurchase agreement financing for a specified period of time. We currently have no interest rate swaps outstanding.
We may also use interest rate cap agreements. An interest rate cap agreement is a contract whereby we, as the purchaser, pay a fee in exchange for the right to receive payments equal to the principal (i.e., notional amount) times the difference between a specified interest rate and a future interest rate during a defined “active” period of time. Interest rate cap agreements should mitigate declines in our net interest income in a rapidly rising interest rate environment.
In the future, we may use other sources of funding in addition to repurchase agreements to finance our Agency MBS portfolio, including but not limited to, other types of collateralized borrowings, loan agreements, lines of credit, commercial paper or the issuance of equity or debt securities.
Securitized Mortgage Loans
We have financed our securitized mortgage loans with securitization financing issued by us to third parties. Securitization financing is collateralized by pools of the mortgage loans, and principal and interest payments received on the loans is used to make principal and interest payments on the securitization financing. Securitization financing is non-recourse to us and is paid only by amounts received on the loans. As of December 31, 2008, approximately $150 million of securitization financing carried a fixed-rate of interest and approximately $28 million carried a variable-rate of interest which resets monthly based on a spread to LIBOR. Generally we will have the right to redeem the financing at its current outstanding balance after a certain date or once the financing reaches a certain percentage of its original issued balance. At December 31, 2008, we had the right to redeem $18.3 million in securitization financing bonds collateralized by commercial mortgage loans. The current weighted average interest rate on this financing is 6.76%, and payment for the most senior class, which had a principal balance of $17.3 million at December 31, 2008, is guaranteed by Fannie Mae for which we pay an annual fee of 0.32%. We may use repurchase agreements to finance the redemption of securitization financing.