This week marks the annual conference in New York for small and medium-sized financial companies sponsored by FBR (Friedman, Billings and Ramsey, the high-flying specialty broker that made itself a subsidiary of its mortgage REIT a few years back).
I used to make it a point to attend this conference, both to renew old friendships, and to hear from CEO’s of companies I invested in.
I’m sure this year’s confab was much, much smaller. Still, from the ashes rise the Phoenix, and my friend was intrigued by the presentation by Eric Billings, the ‘B’ in FBR.
I got this e-mail from an investing friend today, and halfway through answering his question, I realized it would probably be a decent blog post. So here goes:
Good morning, Howard,
I listened to the presentation from Arlington Asset ( NYSE:AI ) at the FBR Capital Markets Conference yesterday and heard Eric Billings and Rock Tonkel lay out their strategy for turning $165M in invested capital into $300M or more in 12-18 months using non-Agency RMBS without leverage. The prime and alt A assets have been substantially already purchased. They believe they will get this return through the reflation of these securities back toward par. This will benefit from their NOLs, making it mostly tax free.
If you were a handicapper, how would you rate the likelihood of this return? I’m a rube in this game but on the lookout for a double like everybody else.
Here is the link if you have 40 minutes to listen in and view these slides.
Arlington Asset slide show (painless registration required)
Thanks for the help,
I will check that out later… thanks.
The run to par may not go all the way to par. if they bought the bonds at the absolute bottom (jan – mar this year), they paid in the 30’s or very low 40’s, and the double is in the cards, assuming they bought 2005 or earlier vintage
The problem with the alt-As is that the AAA bonds only had 2% to 6% subordination under them, and foreclosures are nearing 40% on a lot of the pools, even 2004 and 2005… on the good news side, those pools often had half the pool pay off before the storm hit, so subordination was able to nearly double.
Still, losses are extraordinary as some people take being underwater as an excuse to stop paying and live rent free for a year or longer… that puts the servicer on the spot to advance the money for the missed payments until they actually foreclose….
Why does this matter?
Because the bondholders are getting those advanced dollars, the servicers stand in the absolute front of the line when a foreclosed property is sold…. if they advanced taxes, insurance and payments equal to 10% or even 15% of the loan amount, there is not much left over to pay bondholders…
Look at it this way:
If the house had an 80% LTV ($400k) mortgage based on a $500K appraisal, then the advances from the servicer might add up to $40K to $60K. Add in the legal costs to foreclose, the maintenance (some borrowers are taking more than their furniture when they finally leave), and the cost of selling the house, and you might be looking at another $40 to $60K in sale proceeds that need to be reimbursed. Take the middle of this range – $100K as an estimate.
Now assume the house sells for $250K (could be lower in bubble states). Even so, that leaves only $150K to cover the bondholders for the $400K of mortgage debt, making the loss severity a whopping 62.5%.
What this means for Arlington Capital’s prime and alt-A bonds is that we are still looking at allocating a substantial amount of loss to those AAA bonds if the house prices don’t recover before the wave of foreclosures finishes.
In my example of an alt-A deal that now has 40% of its loans heading for, or already in, foreclosure, 0.625 * 0.4 equals total loss of 25% of the current balance. Even if the subordination has grown to 5% or 10% of the deal, that leaves 20% to 25% of the AAA bonds turning into credit losses. If you bought them for 35, you only need to recover 70 to double your money, so if the slide stops here, you’re fine. If you paid 45 or 50, you will never double your money, especially if another third or half of the pool slides into foreclosure.
Same is true for prime deals, though today’s foreclosure pipeline is more like 10% to 12% of those deals. On the other hand, subordination is bupkus in those deals, often around 1% or maybe 2%. Also, those prime bonds only got down to the high 40’s at their bottom, so if Arlington paid an average price near 50 (quite likely), they can’t double their money.
The last qualifier is that the money only doubles if the remaining bond can be sold at par in 12 to 18 months. No guarantees here, but I think private-label MBS aren’t likely to trade at tight spreads vs government MBS any time before I finally retire.
Having said that, it does seem like 70% to 80% total return is in the bag. The question is whether they can realize that return in 1.5 years, or whether it takes 4 years… that will affect the annual return.
The good news from buying all these MBS so cheap is that even today’s low ARM coupons (3.5% or so) are really 7% to 10% yield on those low prices, so the pain of waiting for the principal payoff is not as bad as it might seem. Fixed rate MBS are even better, paying 5%- 6% on the face amount, which translates into current yield as high as 15% or 20% given the discount purchase price. That certainly takes the sting out of waiting for the recovery.
As they described the trade (and when they bought the kinds of bonds described), I would put the unlevered IRR as between 40% + (very fast recovery) and 20% + (if it takes a long time).