07 May, 2009

For Bank Of America, $34Billion, what $34Billion?

Bank Of America (BAC) has been surging the last few days, up 56% the last 5 days, despite leaked information from the Federal Government Stress Test results. Even though the leaked details of BAC's capital needs seem ludicrously high, the number could have been a lot worse. Analysts have been on BAC's high horse, upgrading the stock, despite the need for $34Billion in capital! And here's why.

Despite the fact that $34Billion seems high, you've got to remember this is Wall Street thinking. The same Wall Street thinking that applauded a government move to secure defaults on over $300Billion in debt of Citigroup (C). Both banks have been surging lately as Investors jump back into an industry that was decimated by the credit crunch losses and prolonged recession.

For Bank Of America, and several other banks requiring more capital, the easiest thing to do would be to convert preferred shares into common equity. In BAC's case, doing so would add approximately $28Billion in capital, according to an analyst from Morgan Stanley. The comprehensive analyst report from Morgan's Betsy Graseck details other potential asset sales that would raise the remainder of the required capital. All in all, a situation for BAC, that looks much brighter compared to several weeks ago. It was very recently that Goldman Sachs (GS) made a splash by raising $5Billion in a stock offering, in order to use the money to repay the government's TARP funds.

Ken Lewis having his role of Chairman and CEO separated has given shareholders a new life, and recent gains certainly helped cement realistic rebound expectations. All this, despite the the financial sector still on what can be described as slightly thicker ice.

What Investors are still most weary of is government control of the financial sector, and despite the new Administrations repeated denials of Nationalization the potential of having the US government as the largest shareholder of several major banks will do nothing to quell the argument.

For now though, When the Stress Test results are made public investors will await word of what exactly Bank Of America will do to raise capital. Till then, what $34Billion?

Disclosure: Author owns C, GS

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