A Subprime Bull?
Accredited Home Lenders (Nasdaq: LEND) was up a big 52% yesterday -- really nice for those Johnny-come-lately speculators, but small consolation for investors who were buying at $30 back in December. And despite the one-day jump, it's pretty clear that the subprime lenders, like Accredited, New Century (OTC: NEWC.PK), Fieldstone (Nasdaq: FICC), and Impac (NYSE: IMH), are rapidly getting swallowed up in the wreckage stemming from rising subprime defaults and a slowing in the real estate market.
What I have to wonder in all of this, though, is: With mass fear on the markets, is opportunity grinning its annoyingly cheeky grin somewhere? After all, there's nothing inherently wrong with subprime done right -- if you have a good sense of the default rates you'll be facing, and you price the loans accordingly, you can make decent returns.
However, it appears the lenders were making increasingly creative loans that posed a higher risk of default and they didn't adequately prepare for it. Now the buyers of the securities backed by these loan portfolios are banging at the door and waving repurchase agreements.
Obviously, many of these asset-backed securities aren't worth what investors thought they were when they bought them. That doesn't mean they're worthless, though, and while it's bad news for the New Centuries of the world, it could mean good news for anyone willing to roll up their sleeves, figure out what they're worth, and potentially buy at pennies on the dollar.
Yesterday, Newcastle Investment (NYSE: NCT), a real estate fund and one of the two publicly traded funds managed by Fortress Investment Group (NYSE: FIG), closed a $50 million preferred stock offering. In the use of proceeds section of the prospectus filing, Newcastle said that it has its eyes on a $2 billion pool of subprime loans that it wants to purchase with the help of Bear Stearns (NYSE: BSC) (which was also the lead underwriter on the preferred issue).
There weren't any details on the loan pool it's looking at, and it's fully possible that Newcastle is putting its foot down square in the middle of a bear trap. All the same, I have to imagine there are a bunch of hedge funds out there just salivating at the loan pools they may be able to pick up at a fraction of their value as lenders end up with their backs to the wall.
Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.