No bailout, an 'investment opportunity'

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TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: I'm gonna stretch a metaphor here, but I'll say that if the financial markets were a horse race, you could make a case that investors wrapped up the trifecta today. A couple of weeks ago, we had Bear Stearns and two of its funds going broke. Then last week BNP Paribas, as I mentioned. Today, no less a blue chip that Goldman Sachs hit the headlines.

Goldman announced this morning it's pouring $2 billion into one of its own hedge funds. A fund that's lost more than 30 percent of its value so far this year — most of it in just the past week. Investors like Hank Greenberg, formerly the CEO of AIG, and Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad, pitched in another billion.

It might walk like a bailout and talk like a bailout — but Marketplace's Amy Scott says whatever you do, don't call it a bailout.


Amy Scott: Goldman Sachs is calling this an investment opportunity. After the twists and turns in last week's market, one executive said stock prices are "out of whack" with their real value. In other words, time to go shopping for bargains.

But analyst Richard Bov&eacute with Punk Ziegel says Goldman needs the money to keep the fund afloat. At the end of last week, he says the firm's Global Equity Opportunities, or GEO fund, was leveraged 6 to 1. That means of the $21 billion in the fund, all but $3.6 billion of it was borrowed money.

Richard Bov&eacute: And that's a danger point. Because if the fund were to decline by as much as 5 percent, you would have wiped out the equity.

Goldman said it's also reducing the leverage in two of its other hedge funds. Bov&eacute says they and other funds lost money on so-called quantitative strategies that use computer models to predict market moves.

Bov&eacute: If the market moves differently than what the models predict, the models don't function and money is lost.

Goldman's GEO fund lost more than $1.5 billion.

But analyst Eileen Fahey, with Fitch Ratings, says Goldman can take it. She says investment banks will make plenty of money as trading volume soars. But they also hold a lot of the debt that's being repriced in the credit market.

Eileen Fahey: They've made a lot of money the past six quarters, and we do not expect them to be making a lot of money in this quarter. But we do expect some balance between earnings on volume and trading versus, you know, asset repricing.

Hedge-fund investors have seen this kind of cash infusion before. Bear Stearns tried to bail out one of its ailing hedge funds with $1.6 billion in emergency funding. Shortly after, the fund filed for bankruptcy.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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