Monday, December 22, 2008

Bailouts: It's Not Just Banks, It's Not Just the U.S.

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

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While Ireland had to inject more capital into its major banks this morning to keep their financial system afloat (Ireland has a bigger subprime mortgage problem than the U.S.), today's bailout news concerns mostly non-financial institutions. Mega memory chip maker Infineon's mostly owned subsidiary Qimonda received government assistance so it could keep operating. Tata Motors had to inject money into its Jaguar Land Rover unit and is looking for bailout money from the UK. On our side of the pond, commercial property developers are requesting bailout money from the federal government. As for the bailout money that the U.S. has already provided to failing financial institutions, a just released AP survey finds many banks don't know where the money went.

The need for a bailout of a memory chip maker in Europe should come as no surprise. This industry has suffered from chronic overcapacity for years. Started in the U.S., the Japanese then dominated the business and they were followed by the South Koreans (and you should assume that China will be the major player sometime in the future). The German state of Saxony, a Portuguese bank and Infineon itself injected money into Qimonda. This is an attempt to save jobs in Saxony and Portugal of course. More money will be needed to keep this uneconomical operation going.

Uneconomical operation would be a good watchword for Jaguar Land Rover as well. Indian car company, Tata Motors, acquired Jaguar from Ford in March (what a brilliant purchase that was) and according to reports has pumped hundreds of millions of working capital into the company. It is now injecting 'tens of millions' to keep Jaguar operating and is looking to the U.K. government for bailout money to save the jobs of British auto workers. President Bush after all has just grudgingly provided U.S. auto makers with minimal bailout money to tide them over to the beginning of next year (when another bailout will be needed). How the inefficient auto producers can survive when even the best operations are struggling - Toyota announced its first loss since World War II last night - is a good question.

Trying to get in on the bailout gravy train, U.S. commercial property developers have sent a letter to Henry Paulson requesting assistance. The industry wants to be included in the government loan program created to prop up the the market for student loans, car loans, and credit card debt. The letter warns of a dire collapse in the commercial real estate market. Indeed this is likely to happen. Why the developers should be saved from their own greed and stupidity is not clear however. Perhaps the need to cancel their country club memberships and sell their private jets would just be too burdensome.

As for the money that has been spent so far in the 700 billion Wall Street welfare program known as TARP, the AP sent out a request to the banks that were recipients of the funds so far and asked them what they did with them. Some banks didn't know, none provided any answers. Should we be surprised? Congress attached nearly no strings on the $700 billion bailout in October and the Treasury Department, which doles out the money, never asked banks how it would be spent. Our stalwart representatives on Capitol Hill did summon bank executives last month and implored them to lend the money — not to hoard it or spend it on corporate bonuses, junkets or to buy other banks. But AP admits that there is no process in place to make sure that's happening and there are no consequences for banks who don't comply. New York Investing said all of this would happen before the bailout bill passed. Please see the videos listed at the top of this blog.

NEXT: East Meets West, The Trimuph of Communo-Capitalism

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.