Bank of America analyst Michael Hecht cut his estimates and price target on Lehman Brothers (LEH) this morning, citing the firm’s exposure to the debt markets:
While on the one hand Lehman has successfully transformed from a one-business firm to a more diversified investment bank, Lehman remains the most fixed-income sensitive firm.
Hecht joins Deutsche Bank’s Mike Mayo and Merrill Lynch’s Guy Moszkowski, who also lowered their outlooks for Lehman this week. Hecht also said that the sale of Lehman’s asset management arm Neuberger Berman wouldn’t be motivated by the need for capital, but rather by the desire to “unlock shareholder value.” Hecht also said that a spinoff was more likely than an outright sale:
Asset management remains a highly valuable asset, leading us to believe that a potential Neuberger monetization would not be motivated by capital shortfall but rather unlocking shareholder value and we think leaves the door open for a partial spin versus outright sale.
Hecht met with Lehman President and COO Bart McDade, who assured him that Lehman’s capital position was sound. Confident in McDade’s assessment, Hecht suggestsLehman’s solid capital position means that an acquisition by another bank remains a possibility:
[This] opens the door to contemplating a potential bank acquisition, though management stopped short of seeing an outright sale to a bank or going private as reasonable, attractive alternatives
There are certainly parts of Lehman’s business that are attractive, but it still has $20 billion of Alt-A mortgages and $40 billion in commercial real estate loans on its balance sheet. These would likely pose a concern to any potential acquirer despite the firm’s relatively high tier 1 ratio.
Hecht maintains his Neutral rating and cuts his price target from $23 to $20.
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