10 October 2008

Lehman Auction Sets up Largest CDS Settlement of $270 Billion

Lehman Credit-Swap Auction Sets Payout of 91.38 Cents
By Shannon D. Harrington and Neil Unmack

Oct. 10 -- Sellers of credit-default protection on bankrupt Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. will have to pay holders 91.375 cents on the dollar, setting up the biggest-ever payout in the $55 trillion market.

An auction to determine the size of the settlement on Lehman credit-default swaps set a value of 8.625 cents on the dollar for the debt, according to Creditfixings.com, a Web site run by auction administrators Creditex Group Inc. and Markit Group Ltd. The auction may lead to payments of more than $270 billion, BNP Paribas SA strategist Andrea Cicione in London said.

While the potential payout is higher than 87 cents on the dollar suggested by trading in Lehman's bonds yesterday, sellers of protection have probably written down their positions and put up most of the collateral required, said Robert Pickel, head of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association. More than 350 banks and investors signed up to settle credit-default swaps tied to Lehman. No one knows exactly who has what at stake because there's no central exchange or system for reporting trades.

``I don't think it buries anybody,'' said Brian Yelvington, a strategist at CreditSights Inc., a bond research firm in New York.

Sellers are required to post collateral, or pledge assets, to the buyer of protection, known as the counterparty, on the other side of the trade if the value of their positions declines. Because Lehman's bonds had already fallen, that collateral has probably been posted, Yelvington said.

Pimco, Citadel

The list of participants in the auction includes Newport Beach, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co., manager of the world's largest bond fund, Chicago-based hedge fund manager Citadel Investment Group LLC and American International Group Inc., the New York-based insurer taken over by the government, according to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association in New York.

Hedge funds, insurance companies and banks typically buy and sell credit protection, which is used either to insure a bond against default or as a bet against the company's ability to pay its debt.

The payments ``are insignificant when put into the context of the trillions of dollars of payments that are made through settlement systems each and every day,'' Pickel said on a conference call with reporters today.

Fears `Overblown'

Some funds may be forced to dump assets to meet the payment demands if they haven't hedged, BNP Paribas's Cicione said.

``Banks can go to the Federal Reserve, or use the commercial paper market where it is still functioning'' to meet protection payments, said Cicione, who said a 9.75 cent recovery rate would lead to payments of about $270 billion. ``But fund managers or hedge funds, once they've used their cash, have only one option: to sell assets.....''