A bailout for Countrywide

Ashley Milne-Tyte Jan 11, 2008


Scott Jagow: Bank of America made it official this morning: it is buying mortgage lender Countrywide for $4 billion in stock.

Two things happening here: Countrywide gets saved from a worse fate like bankruptcy and Bank of America gets even bigger. It’ll now be the nation’s largest lender and loan servicer.

Ashley Milne-Tyte looks at what this deal means for the mortgage industry.

Ashley Milne-Tyte: By swooping in to rescue Countrywide, Bank of America is cutting out some of the uncertainty riddling the housing industry.

Mike Larson is a real estate analyst with Weiss Research. He says if Countrywide had declared bankruptcy, the government would have had to step in. He says business would still have gone on, but the situation would have been pretty disruptive for customers:

Mike Larson: The risk of things like paperwork being lost, loans being delayed, definitely goes up in a troubled financial situation. And again, I think that’s probably why the incentive to get a deal done quickly or at least get something announced was definitely there.

He says with Bank of America taking over, customers can look forward to a much smoother transition. Still, Larson says, the industry shouldn’t breathe too big a sigh of relief.

The country’s biggest mortgage lender may have found a savior. But he says the housing downturn has some way to go.

In New York I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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