Silent Treatment On Bank Write-Downs
Schön zu sehen das die Bilanzierung im Finanzwesen seit der Krise noch "transparenter" geworden ist und...... Immerhin bleibt zu bemerken das selbst das ansonsten extrem bankenfreunldiche WSJ diese Bilanzierungsform als "bizarr" klassifiziert.....
Silent Treatment on Bank Write-Downs WSJ
Whenever asset write-downs don't hurt earnings, it pays to look closely. As banks snap up weaker peers, a little-known and somewhat bizarre accounting treatment suddenly has come to the fore.
The past 18 months has spawned the acquisitions of Wachovia by Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual by J.P. Morgan Chase, Countrywide by Bank of America and National City by PNC Financial Services Group. And while bank megamergers likely are over, there could be plenty of fair-size deals among regional banks.
Deserving special scrutiny is the accounting treatment that allows banks to write down acquired loans after the deal, but keep those hits out of their income statements.
It works like this. Bank A buys Bank B, acquiring a loan portfolio, $1 billion of which it believes won't get paid in full. It therefore takes a $200 million write-down on these impaired loans, meaning they come onto Bank A's balance sheet with a fair value of $800 million at the deal date. If those loans subsequently deteriorate, the bank typically has to book a reserve against them, hurting earnings.
However, there is a situation in which postdeal marks don't hit earnings, but only affect shareholders' equity. That is when such adjustments are based on factors that actually existed at the acquisition date, but the acquirer was ignorant of. In the example, Bank A might say it discovered after the deal that another $500 million of acquired loans were in fact impaired at the time of the deal. Bank A's income statement would avoid the hit it then takes on those loans.
Granted, banks can't know everything at the time of a deal. However, adjustments have been large in recent cases, they can take place for a whole year after the deal, and they have happened after acquirers say they have done extensive due diligence.
Moreover, outsiders have no way of gauging whether the circumstances that led to the "look-back" write-downs actually were there at the time of the deal. Their best hope is that auditors are keeping track.
PNC initially classified $19.29 billion of National City loans as impaired, as of closing at year-end 2008, marking them down to $11.9 billion. But in the first half of this year, PNC classified another $2.6 billion of National City loans as impaired, marking them down by $1.6 billion, or a sizable 62%.
If look-back adjustments weren't allowed, PNC might have had to take a hefty reserve against these loans, possibly eroding the bank's $905 million of first-half pretax earnings.
PNC said it had only 69 days between announcing the deal and closing it to review loans, while real-estate appraisers faced a "significant backlog." And the bank has booked reserves on other impaired National City loans, because of deterioration after the deal.
> Compared to other "creative" accounting stunts this example isn´t sounding really "bizarre"......;-) Will be interesting to see if Wells Fargo will use this tool to manage their earnings and especially if the market is once again willing to accept the often very poor earnings & balance sheet quality of almost all financial companies.... Could be the inflection point to short this market.....
> Verglichen mit all den anderen kreativen Bilanzierungsformen hört sich selbst das o.g. Beispiel wenig "bizarr" an......;-) Ich denke es lohnt sich darauf zu achten ob insbesondere Wells Fargo das o.g. Schlupfloch nutzen wird. Sollte der Markt die oft extrem schwache Gewinn und Bilanzqaulität der Finanzinstitue zur Abwechslung mal nicht abfeiern könnte dies der Wendepunkt für die Märkte sein.
Labels: "loock-back write downs", "well capitalized", balance sheet quality, creative accounting, earnings quality, level 3 accounting / mark-to-mark-believe gains, loan loss reserves, non performing loans