I remember watching plenty of soccer (football/futbol) matches. More specifically the 2009 Champions League Final between Barcelona and Manchester United. At the time, Manchester United was sponsored by AIG, which had received a $85 billion (which got up to $182 billion) credit facility from the US government. I just loved the irony that the American public was sponsoring a football club in the UK. Honestly, I laughed then and the joke still isn’t old. I honestly thought they should replace the AIG logo with a picture of Uncle Sam or the American flag.
This week, AIG announced they would be looking to raise $6 billion in order to help pay back the credit facility. In order to do this, they plan on selling AIA Group, an Asia based insurance holding company. While AIG certainly is in desperate need of some cash to pay back the US Treasury, I worry about the long term prospects of AIG.
As a result of taking the bullish side of the first credit default swaps, AIG really hurt itself as a firm*. In order to meet short term liquidity issues, it had to complicate its long term solvency. Meaning, it had to forego its long term credit for short term credit. Now, the bills are coming due and AIG has to trim the fat. The main issue I have with them selling off assets is that it will reduce the diversification of the firm.
Not only that, I believe that AIG’s sell of AIA is just the beginning. I’m pretty sure more will be coming. After this, AIG will have raised $6 billion of the money they need to pay back. Afterwards, they will owe about $42 billion back.
* Credit default swaps – A credit default swap is best thought of as insurance on a bond. You can buy a credit default swap on Greek debt. If Greek fails to live up to its debt obligations and defaults, you get paid. Think like a put option. You pay a premium for downside risk. You don’t have to own the underlying asset.