Hank Quixote

January 6, 2009

SWEDEN/Former AIG strongman Hank Greenberg is keeping up his steady stream of bull-horn bravado against what he says are fire sales at his old firm, of which he still owns 10 percent. But is anybody listening? The bailout bill shot from $80 billion to $150 billion in just a couple of months. Greenberg’s latest complaint, dutifully lodged with the SEC (an organ of the same government that now owns 80 percent of his old firm), says the company plans to sell its HSB Group unit at a “distressed” price. He wants an explanation from the AIG board.

Hank really can’t be blamed for trying to make sure he gets the best return possible on his AIG investment. “Certainly, selling major assets at fire-sale prices is not a viable strategy for reviving the company or even repaying the government,” Greenberg, who ran AIG for 38 years, said in the letter.

Viewing the landscape for a moment, it’s clear AIG is selling into a buyer’s market, so there’s little reason to think it will have much price-setting power. And with the mandate to pay back what it can to taxpayers, a fire sale may be just the thing the financial market needs to cauterize the damage done to and by Wall Street.

In others Deals news:

* Irish airline Ryanair said it had extended the offer period to Aer Lingus shareholders in its 750 million euro ($1.04 billion) takeover bid for its rival.

* South Korea’s retail giant Lotte Group will acquire Doosan Corp’s spirits-making division for 503 billion won ($386 million), Doosan said, in a move that will spur Lotte’s beverage business.

* Deutsche Bank’s Chinese securities joint venture has won regulatory approval from Beijing, becoming the latest Western institution to gain access to China’s restrictive domestic capital markets.

* Indian software services firm Tech Mahindra has approached embattled rival Satyam Computer Services for an all-share merger, the Economic Times reported.

* Online fashion retailer EBTM Plc put itself up for sale as its financial resources were hit by poor Christmas sales and its wholesale division faced difficulties.

(Photo: Reuters)

One comment so far | RSS Comments RSS

Hank Greenberg, in his infinite wisdom and fertile mind, ignored the basic canon of underwriting skill in the creation of AIG’s Financial Products Division.

” Never allow the perfume of the premium to overcome the stench of the risk”

While the FPD was a cash cow, such profits attract equitable risk, Hank and his management team lacked the foresight in this regard.

Hank, the fat lady is singing – have a magic day.


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