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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 27, 2010

Struggling Fannie Mae seeks $15B more from government


By Alan Zibel
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae, which together with Freddie Mac is responsible for about half of all home loans, continues to founder after its government rescue in 2008.

Bloomberg News file photo

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WASHINGTON Fannie Mae needs another $15 billion in federal assistance, bringing its total to more than $75 billion. And worse, the mortgage finance company warned its losses will continue this year.

The rescue of Fannie Mae and sister company Freddie Mac is turning out to be one of the most expensive aftereffects of the financial meltdown. The new request means the total bill for the duo will top $126 billion.

And the pain isn't over. Fannie warned yesterday that it will need even more money from the Treasury, as unemployment remains high and millions of Americans lose their homes through foreclosure.

Fannie Mae reported yesterday it lost $74.4 billion, or $13.11 a share, last year, including $2.5 billion in dividends paid to the government. That compares with a loss of $59.8 billion, or $24 a share, a year earlier.

Fannie Mae, which was seized by federal regulators in September 2008, has racked up losses totaling $136.8 billion over the past three years.

Late last year, the Obama administration pledged to cover unlimited losses through 2012 for Freddie and Fannie, lifting an earlier cap of $400 billion.

Earlier in the week, Freddie reported a loss of almost $26 billion for last year. The company didn't request any more money, but expects to do so later this year.

Fannie and Freddie play a vital role in the mortgage market by purchasing mortgages from lenders and selling them to investors. Together the pair own or guarantee almost 31 million home loans worth about $5.5 trillion. That's about half of all mortgages.

The two companies, however, loosened their lending standards for borrowers during the real estate boom and are reeling from the consequences.

During the most recent quarter, Washington-based Fannie suffered $11.9 billion in credit losses and a $5 billion write-down for low income tax credit investments.

That led to a fourth-quarter loss of $16.3 billion, or $2.87 a share, including $1.2 billion in dividends paid to the Treasury Department. It compares with a loss of $25.2 billion, or $4.47 a share, in the year-ago period.