Chance of Major Bank Nationalization Diminishing

Wednesday, 03 Jun 2009 08:36 AM

By Dan Weil

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At the worst of the financial crisis, many experts speculated that several major banks would be nationalized.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress in February that the government might ultimately hold “substantial” portions of the largest banks, Bloomberg reports.

But now it looks like Citigroup will be the only one with major government ownership. Citi plans to convert the government’s preferred shares into common stock that will give taxpayers a 36 percent stake in the bank.

“You never want to have the government involved in your business,” Philip Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors, tells Bloomberg.

“They’re not businessmen; they’re bureaucrats. They don’t understand capitalism, they don’t understand the profit motive and they don’t understand the financial industry.”

The Fed’s recent stress tests concluded that Bank of America, Wells Fargo and seven other big banks need to raise $69.1 billion in additional capital.

But they’re trying to do that without increasing government ownership. And JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs are negotiating with the government on buying out its stake in the banks.

The banks received financial aid in exchange for preferred shares from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

To be sure, not all banks will have easy access to capital.

“Most banks will not get multiple bites at the public market apple, so they will need to approach the markets deliberately raising sufficient capital," banking lawyer Lawrence Kaplan of Paul Hastings tells Dow Jones.

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