Tuesday, 27 July 2010

AIG truly was too big to fail.

U.S. to Take Over AIG in $85 Billion Bailout; Central Banks Inject Cash as Credit Dries Up

SEPTEMBER 16, 2008

The U.S. government seized control of American International Group Inc. -- one of the world's biggest insurers -- in an $85 billion deal that signaled the intensity of its concerns about the danger a collapse could pose to the financial system.

The step marks a dramatic turnabout for the federal government, which had been strongly resisting overtures from AIG for an emergency loan or some intervention that would prevent the insurer from falling into bankruptcy. Just last weekend, the government essentially pulled the plug on Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., allowing the big investment bank to go under instead of giving it financial support. This time, the government decided AIG truly was too big to fail.

[AIG chart]

AIG's cash squeeze is driven in large part by losses in a unit separate from its traditional insurance businesses. That financial-products unit, which has been a part of AIG for years, sold the credit-default swap contracts designed to protect investors against default in an array of assets, including subprime mortgages.

But as the housing market has crumbled, the value of those contracts has dropped sharply, driving $18 billion in losses over the past three quarters and forcing AIG to put up billions of dollars in collateral. AIG raised $20 billion earlier this year. But the ongoing demands are straining the holding company's resources.

That strain contributed to the ratings downgrades on Monday. Those downgrades, in turn, ratcheted up the pressure on the company to come up with more cash, quickly.

Most insurance companies don't have financial-products units like these. But over nearly four decades, former CEO, Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg built AIG into a firm that resembled no other. He transformed its insurance business, both by expanding abroad -- notably in China, where AIG has its roots -- and by buying up other firms.


No comments: