Lehman and Merrill

Even those without a direct interest in Lehman (LEH) or Merrill Lynch (MER) are paying attention this week.  The overall market seems to be a hostage to the latest rumor of a potential failure or bailout in the financial sector.

There are clear differences between these companies and the Bear Stearns situation.  Most importantly, the Treasury and the Fed have made it clear:  No federal guarantees against losses.

This means that potential buyers must accept any risk.  Scott Rothbort at The Finance Professor has a nice analysis of the two companies and some timely information from his contacts.  He predicts a deal for Lehman this weekend, but only in the $2-3 range.

Merrill is a different story altogether.  Read the entire article for Scott's analysis and a list of possible suitors — including a few that will make you smile.

Meanwhile, Citi is out with a sum of the parts valuation on Merrill, similar to what Scott has cited on past occasions.  Citi assigns a $9 value to the stake in BlackRock, $16 for the wealth management business, and $15 for the brokerage franchise.  They also note that Merrill has $90 billion in liquid assets.

Merrill has already taken the hit on writedowns on several occasions and does not deserve its billing on CNBC's "life support bug" at the top of the screen.

As we have noted in the past, we own Merrill Lynch.  We have no position in Lehman.

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  • mxq September 12, 2008  

    insiders need to start buying.

  • shrek September 12, 2008  

    MER doesnt have a viable way to make money. It cant fail but it doesnt have a business model.

  • gaius marius September 14, 2008  

    looks like you got rewarded, prof! $29/sh from ken lewis’ new and revised unmanageably-large superbank.

  • Jeff Miller September 15, 2008  

    Gaius — Anyone buying Merrill last week had to watch carefully this morning. Since it was a stock deal, the actual price represents a ratio to B of A minus an arbitrage spread. (I’m sure that YOU know this, but other readers may not). I never expected to see 29, but the AIG circumstances created even more pressure. When I saw what was happening, I sold at about 21 to lock in 3 1/2 points or so. Not close to the top, but better than holding.
    Will B of A be unmanageable? Time will tell. As you know, I think they got a good price, and a lot of the pieces seem to fit.
    Thanks for commenting.

  • gaius marius September 16, 2008  

    risk off the table in this environment, with this kind of event speed, is just smart. good trade.
    it was pointed out to me that BAC will probably make first priority of sweeping MER brokerage cash into deposits. it’s not the most stable cash in the world, but i think you have to take it where you can get it when you’re digesting CFC!