The TARP Big Boys Start The Payback

By Eric Fox | May 10, 2009 AAA

A significant amount of the next wave of bank paybacks of government money will be from large, well-known institutions, and may satisfy some critics who felt that the "bailout" was a waste of taxpayers funds, rather than being the investment that it actually was.

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The Capital Purchase Program (CPP), an integral part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) initiated by the Bush Administration, has certainly been one of the more controversial parts of the government "bailout" with its restrictions on executive pay, dividends and other corporate activity, leading most participants to regret enrolling in the plan.

Most of the banks announcing that they would redeem the preferred stock issued to the U.S. government as part of the CPP have been small regional or community banks that paid back what amounted to only a pittance of the hundreds of billions that the government invested in the nation's financial sector. These include First Niagara Financial Group Inc. (Nasdaq:FNFG) which took $184 million, and Somerset Hills Bancorp (Nasdaq:SOMH) which received only $7.4 million.

Not so for the next round, as already three of the banks that were assessed in the Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (SCAP), or stress tests, as they are colloquially known, have announced they are raising equity to be used at least partially for this purpose. (Break down the walls around researching financial institutions' financials Analyzing A Bank's Financial Statements.)

U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB) said it was conducting an equity offering to raise $2.5 billion, and issuing a five year note in the amount of $1 billion.

Capital One (NYSE:COF) is issuing 56 million shares of its common stock, which, at the current price of $28.50, would raise approximately $1.6 billion.

BB&T (NYSE:BBT) announced a $1.5 billion offering of common stock, and also cut its dividend to retain capital.

All these banks would need to do additional capital raising, or use current funds as the amount raised falls short of what they received from the government when it issued preferred stock and warrants. U.S. Bancorp received $6.6 billion, Capital One received $3.5 billion and BB&T took in $3.1 billion.

All three banks were unscathed by the SCAP, with none needing a capital buffer under the adverse scenario that the Federal Reserve conducted. The other six institutions that had no need for capital are American Express (NYSE:AXP), JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM), Met Life (NYSE:MET), Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (NYSE:BK), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and State Street (NYSE:STT).

Look for some of these six next to either raise capital or announce that it will use existing capital to redeem the government preferred, except for Met Life, which was the only one either smart or lucky enough to turn it down.

Most felt that the CPP was a bailout, and represented a loss of cash for the government and thus a loss for the taxpayers. Hopefully, the actions of the next group of banks, which will be paying back every penny they received with accrued interest, will convince the public that the investment the government made wasn't so bad after all. (Learn more in Is the current government bailout a fool in the shower?)

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