Counter-Take: Treasury AIG Sale Is Actually Good For Holders

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Any time a secondary offering from a share sale comes out, most investors just assume that it is a bad development for existing shareholders. That is usually the case because it dilutes the right to income or it increases the float and creates more supply of shares that have to be absorbed by the market. Still, there are exceptions. One such exception is the coming share sale of some $18 billion in shares held by the U.S. Treasury of none other than American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG).

It is true that AIG shares are lower on the offering, but how many companies out there can have a whopping $18 billion sold into the market and only see their shares down by not even 2%? AIG can claim that today. We previously wrote that the Treasury should have sold much more than it did in its last very successful secondary offering.

With a sale of $18 billion in shares, this is the single largest effort to unload AIG shares by the Treasury. This gets the Treasury's stake down closer to 20% from almost 53% now. If the sale is in exact dollars of today, the Treasury will have made money for the U.S. taxpayers. AIG is said to be buying $5 billion of the offering itself and that will be financed from cash on hand and via proceeds from the sale of its AIA Group stake.

What has received little coverage is that CEO Robert Benmosche has been able to stop all of the Congressional inquiries and mudslinging in Washington D.C. Apparently he was able to convince "vote-hungry" and "PR-hungry" senators and congressmen that paying back the taxpayer would be easier if the company is not vilified constantly by lawmakers.

With a 53% stake, the government can still theoretically demand whatever it wants. With a 20% stake and after having made profits as its investment was paid down, AIG will get to operate that much more independently without any check and balance every step along the way.

AIG shares are down only 1.4% at $33.51 and Yahoo! Finance lists its current market cap at just over $58 billion. This reaction is good enough that it should be considered a win.

OUR TAKE: If this much is sold off now, the U.S. Treasury (and the taxpayer) will almost certainly be out of AIG this time in 2013.

JON C. OGG


Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Banking & Finance, IPOs & Secondaries Tagged: AIG
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