Analyst Pussyfoots Around Saying A Failing Bank Will Fail


Florida-based BankUnited Financial Corp (huge in the option ARM biz in South FL) is down 83 percent YTD. The Office of Thrift Supervision, it's hilariously named regulator, may lower its capital rating. The humidity in Miami is unbearable this time of year. All signs point to fail. David Bishop, however, refuses to come out and say it. The Stifel Nicolaus analyst instead downgraded the firm to sell and danced around the whole thing, writing that the "viability of the bank is increasingly fraying...[and while it] may yet be successful in finding private equity capital to forestall additional regulatory sanctions, we believe there is a good enough chance that this will not come to pass." It's unclear whether Bishop has a longstanding history of not JUST SAYING IT: YOU WILL FAIL, or if his skittishness is a recent phenomenon having something to do with the bank down the road suing everyone's favorite woodland creature for having the pair to do just that.
Related: BankAtlantic Sues Bové
Stifel cuts BankUnited to sell on capital concerns [Reuters]


Mark Zuckerberg Will Never Make It As A Banking Analyst

The best part of this morning's Journal story about Facebook buying Instagram is clearly Mark Zuckerberg's valuation approach, which I hope will be taught in future M&A banker training sessions: Now, however, Mr. [Instagram CEO Kevin] Systrom found himself in Mr. Zuckerberg's house asking $2 billion for Instagram. Mr. Zuckerberg suggested looking at the value of Instagram as a percentage of the value of Facebook, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Zuckerberg, who planned to pay for Instagram mostly with stock, asked Mr. Systrom what he thought Facebook would be worth, the people said. If he believed Facebook would one day be worth as much as a company like Google at $200 billion or more, then the equivalent of 1% of Facebook would be sufficient to meet his price, Mr. Zuckerberg told Mr. Systrom, the people said. It was as good an argument as any, considering that traditional ways of valuing a company — by its cash flow, or the sum of its parts — are ineffective when that company makes only one product and gives it away free. "It was as good an argument as any" given that it is a TERRIBLE ARGUMENT. Here it is as best I can make out: (1) Instagram is worth $2bn (2) Facebook is worth $100bn (3) At some point in the future Facebook will be worth $200bn, I guess (4) Therefore $100bn = $200bn (5) Therefore $1bn = $2bn (6) Therefore you should accept $1bn because it's $2bn B+ students in those future M&A banker training sessions will object to using a zero discount rate (for equity!) and/or the failure to probability-weight Facebook's future $200bn valuation; the more advanced may notice that this argument proves that 1 = 2 and is thus a reductio ad absurdum of itself. These numbers are all sort of imaginary anyway so I will concede that this "was as good an argument as any" so long as we recognize that it is also literally the worst argument that it is possible for anyone to make about anything.*

Banks Prove That They Are Not Too Big To Fail By Saying "We Can Fail" On A Piece Of Paper, Moving On

One way you could spend this slow week is reading the "living wills" submitted by a bunch of banks telling regulators how to wind them up if they go under. Don't, though: they're about the most boring and least informative things imaginable and I am angry that I read them.* Here for instance is how JPMorgan would wind itself up if left to its own devices**: (1) It would just file for bankruptcy and stiff its non-deposit creditors (at the holding company and then, if necessary, at the bank). (2) If after stiffing its non-deposit creditors it didn't have enough money to pay its depositors it would sell its highly attractive businesses in a competitive sale to willing buyers who would pay top dollar. This seems wrong, no? And not just in the sense of "in my opinion that would be sort of difficult, what with people freaking out about JPMorgan going bankrupt and its highly attractive businesses having landing it in, um, bankruptcy." It's wrong in the sense that it's the opposite of having a plan for dealing with banks being "too big to fail": it's premised on an assumption that the bank is not too big to fail. If JPMorgan runs into trouble that it can't get out of without taxpayer support, it'll just file for bankruptcy like anybody else. Depositors will be repaid (if they're under FDIC limits); non-depositor creditors will be screwed just like they would be on a failure of Second Community Bank of Kenosha.

People Still Launching Hedge Funds Faster Than They Can Fail

Well, the numbers are finally in for 2012 and it was, relatively speaking, a bloodbath for hedge funds, with more going to their grave or down the drain than in 2010 or 2011. But there were still 235 more hedge funds at the end of the year than at its beginning, because those who have previously shuttered a hedge fund due to their failure to raise/make enough money gave it another go last year. Look for more of the same this year, as fresh-faced and not-so-fresh-faced hedge fund managers hang out a new shingle for a few months, only to find out that investors are only interested in having Ray Dalio manage their money.