Buffett Pans for Goldman
Oracle of Omaha tosses $5 billion life preserver to financial markets.
After the market closed yesterday, Warren Buffett -- bottom fisher extraordinaire -- announced he would be making a $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs (GS). Financial commentators are now eager to take the Oracle of Omaha's entry into the financial fray as a sign of the long-awaited bottom.
However, as the Wall Street Journal notes, Buffett's last foray into Wall Street -- his 1987 investment of $700 million into Solomon Brothers -- immediately preceded October's market crash. Ultimately, Buffett profited handsomely from the trade after Citigroup (C) folded the once-proud investment bank into its massive operations - but only after serving a 9-month stint as Solomon's interim chairman, which he described as "far from fun, [but] interesting and worthwhile."
This time around, Buffett took down preferred shares that pay out 10% and warrants giving him the right to buy $5 billion of Goldman stock at $115 per share, or around 10% of the company's outstanding equity. Goldman popped on the news in after-hours trading; if the $135 last trade holds when markets open this morning, Buffett will have already booked around $900 million in profits. Not bad for an evening's work.
Coming on the heels of Morgan Stanley's (MS) capital infusion of $8 billion from Mitsubishi Finance, the largest bank in Japan, the inevitable question is now: Does Buffett's validation of the Goldman brand -- coupled with the massive bailout rambling its way through Washington -- mark an end to the credit crisis that has intensified to seemingly apocalyptic proportions in recent weeks?
Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, the architect of the $700 billion financial aid package, weighed in with his answer today during his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee. When asked if he believed the bailout would calm the roiled financial markets, Paulson responded that financial markets would stabilize only when American home prices stop going down.
The credit crisis is bigger than one man, irrespective of how adept his investment decisions may be. It's bigger than one firm, no matter how deftly its traders navigate choppy markets. The deleveraging that's under way, which the Federal Reserve will try to prevent with hyperinflation and false price discovery, isn't something that can be corralled over a weekend or during a hectic week in Washington.
While Buffett's move may provide extra fuel for already historically volatile markets, it's unlikely to do much to stabilize home prices, or to loosen up the massive oversupply of residential real estate that continues to force them downward.
If Paulson's own assessment of the situation is accurate then, fundamentally -- still -- nothing's changed.
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