Calculated Risk has a table listing all of the leaked stress test figures so far. As a percentage of assets, the big banks need between 0% and 1.4% in additional capital. But there is one outlier: GMAC, with $189 billion in assets, needs $11.5 billion in capital.
This implies that GMAC is not just low on capital, it has negative capital. If you were to give GMAC $11.5 billion in new cash, it would have $200 billion in assets. The minimum tangible common equity requirement being used for the stress tests is probably in the 3-4% range. If it’s 4%, then the post-recapitalization GMAC would have $8 billion in tangible common equity – which means that right now it has negative $3.5 billion in tangible common equity. (The situation is slightly worse if you assume that it will be recapitalized through a preferred-to-common conversion, or if the threshold is 3%.)
The thing that confuses me is that, on paper, you can’t recapitalize a company with a negative net worth. No investor would pay $11.5 billion to own 100% of the common shares in a company that is worth $8 billion. (You can recapitalize a company that is under-capitalized: if it has $5 billion in capital and needs another $5 billion, then the new investors get 50% of the company.) This is why it is important (from the government perspective) for the stress tests to show that some banks are low on capital, but not that they have negative capital.
Maybe there’s some clever accounting mechanism or financial wizardry I’m missing.
Update: OK, now that I read the stress test document (I must be the last economics blogger to do so), I see there’s a mistake above. According to the stress test, GMAC is sufficiently capitalized now; the problem is that under the “more adverse” (realistic) scenario, its 2009-10 losses will be greater than its capital. So its expected capital at the end of 2010, absent recapitalization in the interim, would be negative.
It is not arithmetically impossible to recapitalize such a company, because we don’t know that this outcome will occur with certainty. I might pay $11.5 billion to own a company that, in the more adverse scenario, will be worth less than $11.5 billion at the end of two years – if I think that the possibility of a better outcome makes the bet worthwhile. Put another way, even if its end-2010 expected value is negative, its current value is still at least a little positive, because of option value. Still, though, it’s a pretty dodgy investment, so GMAC will probably have a difficult time raising new capital by selling common stock to the private sector.
The comment Nemo made below about the difference between market value and book value is true, but I also think my response is true: if anything, market values are below book values these days.
Finally, Felix Salmon also noticed that GMAC is the outlier on the bad end.
By James Kwak