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The case for and against bank nationalisation

Matthew Richardson
26 February 2009

….It has been argued that trying to implement nationalisation will be near impossible because we won’t be able to price the hard-to-value “toxic” assets. It is actually the opposite. The current problem is that banks don‘t want to sell the assets at the price the market is willing to pay for them. If we were banks, we wouldn’t want to sell them either. As long as the government is providing free money, why not continue to hold out? Hope is eternal.

But let’s be real. The banks bought illiquid assets with credit risk using borrowed short-term liquid funds. For taking these types of risk, the banks earned a hefty spread. And, in normal times, they raked it in. But there is no free lunch in capital markets. In rare bad times, illiquid, defaultable assets are going to be greatly impaired. There is no mulligan here. It will be easier to resolve this within a receivership.

To make the point using a real economy analogy, this past Christmas, Saks Fifth Avenue sold their designer lines at a 70% discount. Designer labels and boutique shops on Madison Avenue were up in arms. How could they sell $500 Manolo Blahnik shoes for $150? In this economy, they are $150 shoes.
Moreover, receivership allows one to separate out the assets without having to price them…Link to full article

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