Powerball Investing: Fannie and Freddiehttp://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/08/21/powerball-investing-fannie-and-freddie.aspx Alexander MacLennan
August 21, 2013
Admit it: You've dreamed of winning the lottery at some point in your life. Everyone knows, or at least everyone should know, that the statistical odds are against lottery players since the lottery itself wants to see a profit. For the 174.999999 million out of 175 million of us who don't have that winning powerball ticket, there are alternative ways to play a market of chance where the odds are not necessarily rigged against you. For this edition of Powerball Investing, we will take a look at two stocks that were once, ironically, considered among the safest in the entire market: Government sponsored entities Fannie Mae (NASDAQOTCBB: FNMA) and Freddie Mac (NASDAQOTCBB: FMCC).
Giant profits, giant losses, and giant profits again
Fannie and Freddie were delisted from the NYSE, fell to around $0.30 per share, and lived up to the title of zombie stocks as they issued more and more preferred stock to the Treasury. But even a zombie isn't completely dead. When the GSEs began to post profits again (even though the Treasury was getting them all because of the Sweep amendment), Fannie and Freddie rose back into the $1 range. Now both GSEs are reporting several billion in profits per quarter, yet still trade in the $1 range on the over-the-counter exchange.
Investing in the living dead
Lehman Brothers represents the opposite side of the financial turmoil. When Lehman collapsed, everyone was hurt, be it bondholders, preferred stockholders, or common stockholders. Stockholders are not expected to receive anything -- a common theme of corporate bankruptcy.
But Fannie and Freddie exist in a kind of middle area. They are making billions in profits like AIG and received a bailout in a similar manner to AIG, but the stock has not recovered like AIG's. The GSEs are in this situation because of the Sweep amendment, which takes all of their profits (with the exception of those needed to maintain necessary capital levels) and transfers them to the Treasury. With none of the profits retained by the GSEs, both trade for a fraction of one quarter's profits.
High risk, high potential return
Of course, this can only happen if the Sweep amendment is repealed, and Congress wouldn't want to give up a cash cow. That is why legal action is necessary if the Sweep amendment is to be repealed and the GSEs freed from government ownership. The lawsuits have already been filed with such plaintiffs as Perry Capital and Bru