That's not a misprint. Desperate to cut a deal before the start of Monday trading in Asia, the storied Bear Stearns is selling itself to J.P. Morgan for a paltry $2 a share in a stock-swap. That values the bank at just $236 million. Before the debacle last Friday, it had been trading for more than $70 a share, and its 52-week high is around $160. Even at the close of Friday’s trading, the market value was still $3.5 billion. Bottom line: Bear Stearns is giving itself away out of fear that the only other alternative would be bankruptcy. Shareholders now find themselves with nearly worthless stock. Here's more from the WSJ:
Effective immediately, J.P. Morgan Chase is guaranteeing the trading obligations of Bear Stearns and its subsidiaries and is providing management oversight for its operations. The deal isn't subject to any conditions, except shareholder approval. It is expected to close before the end of the second quarter. Government regulators, including the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, have given their blessing to the transaction.
Through the weekend, Bear Stearns bankers were summoned to the company's headquarters on New York's Madison Avenue, where they were told to prepare lists of ongoing deals and business relationships. Representatives from prospective buyers circulated through conference rooms, with J.P. Morgan executives asking questions of Bear Stearns's senior management. A separate bidding group, including J.C. Flowers & Co. and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., also was in the mix, said a person familiar with the discussions.
The Journal reports that J.P. Morgan wanted certain assurances concerning potential exposure to Bear Stearns' problems. Those assurances have yet to be reported, but obviously the Federal Reserve has been heavily involved. Here's more from the NYT:
The deal, done at the behest of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, punctuates the stunning downfall of one of Wall Street’s biggest and most storied firms. Bear Stearns weathered the vagaries of the markets for 85 years, surviving the Depression and a dozen recessions only to meet its end in the rapidly unfolding credit crisis now afflicting the American economy.