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Silicon Valley Bank Meltdown Sparks Contagion Fears across Banking Sector: "We Found Another Enron"

Silicon Valley Bank meltdown sparks contagion fears: ‘We found our Enron’

By: Ariel Zilber

March 10, 2023: Fears of a broad financial contagion spread on Friday after tech lender Silicon Valley Bank set off alarm bells over liquidity concernssparking share losses across the banking sector worth some $52 billion on Thursday.

Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm Founders Firm advised clients to withdraw their deposits from Silicon Valley Bank — despite the fact the lender has been a mainstay for tech startups for decades, according to Bloomberg News.

Bill Ackman, the billionaire hedge fund manager, called on the US government to step in and bail out Silicon Valley Bank.

Michael Burry, the eccentric investor featured in the 2015 film “The Big Short,” warned: “It is possible today we found our Enron.”

Shares of Silicon Valley Bank’s parent company, SVB Financial Group, nosedived by 60% on Thursday evening, wiping out more than $80 billion from its market capitalization.

The company’s stock was down another 45% in pre-market trading on Friday — dragging down the share price of several other publicly traded banking giants.

Image Above: The financial sector was rattled on Thursday by the meltdown of Silicon Valley Bank. (REUTERS)

Image Above: Shares of Silicon Valley Bank’s parent company, SVB Financial Group, nosedived by 60% on Thursday evening. (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Greg Becker, the CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, tried to calm tech investors and startups during a Thursday Zoom call.

“My ask is to stay calm because that’s what is important,” Becker told listeners on the call. “We have been long-term supporters of you — the last thing we need you to do is panic.”

Shares of Signature Bank dropped by some 4% in pre-market trading while First Republic Bank, whose stock fell 17% on Thursday, was down another 3% before the opening bell on Friday.

Shares of JPMorgan Chase, which fell 5% on Thursday, dropped another 1% in pre-market trading on Friday.

Image Above: Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm Founders Fund has advised its clients to withdraw deposits from Silicon Valley Bank. (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Silicon Valley Bank said it would raise $2.25 billion following a $1.8 billion after-tax loss in various bets on securities.

“We knew that would create a lot of noise, which it has,” Becker conceded. “But what we wanted to do was reposition … a low-yield asset to a high-yield asset.”

SVB, which does business as Silicon Valley Bank, launched a $1.75 billion share sale on Wednesday to shore up its balance sheet.

It said in an investor prospectus it needed the proceeds to plug a $1.8 billion hole caused by the sale of a $21 billion loss-making bond portfolio consisting mostly of US Treasuries.

The portfolio was yielding it an average 1.79% return, far below the current 10-year Treasury yield of around 3.9%.

Image Above: Michael Burry, the hedge fund investor featured in the 2015 movie “The Big Short,” likened Silicon Valley Bank to now-defunct energy giant Enron. (WireImage)

“The failure of @SVB_Financial could destroy an important long-term driver of the economy as VC-backed companies rely on SVB for loans and holding their operating cash,” Ackman tweeted.

“If private capital can’t provide a solution, a highly dilutive gov’t preferred bailout should be considered.”

Ackman likened the turmoil engulfing Silicon Valley Bank to the 2008 financial crisis, when the Federal Reserve bailed out JPMorgan Chase after the Wall Street giant bought investment bank Bear Stearns, whose market value was eviscerated due to its involvement in the risky subprime mortgage markets.

According to Ackman, no other private institution will step in to save Silicon Valley Bank the way JPMorgan rescued Bear Stearns.

Image Above: Billionaire hedge fund investor Bill Ackman called on the federal government to bail out Silicon Valley Bank. (REUTERS)

“After what the Feds did to @jpmorgan after it bailed out Bear Stearns, I don’t see another bank stepping in to help @SVB_Financial,” according to Ackman.

“The gov’t could also guarantee deposits in exchange for a dilutive warrant issuance and other covenants and protections,” Ackman tweeted.

“If @SVB_Financial is indeed solvent, this would buy time to enable SVB to restore the franchise and raise new private capital.”

Ackman then clarified in a later tweet that any bailout of Silicon Valley Bank “should be designed to protect its depositors, not equity holders or management.”

“We should not reward poor risk management or protect shareholders from risks they knowingly assumed,” Ackman tweeted.

He added: “The risk of failure and deposit losses here is that the next, least well-capitalized bank faces a run and fails and the dominoes continue to fall.”

“That is why gov’t intervention should be considered.”

Source: New York Times

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