JPMorgan has to pay more for Bear Stearns

JPMorgan Chase is to pay a revised $2.1bn (£1.05bn) for Bear Stearns after sweetening the terms of the deal to make it almost impossible for a rival to make a counter offer amid growing concern among other banks over the original $236m transaction…


Still, it’s only $10 a share, which is some consolation, given what BS was once ‘worth’. On that subject, incidentally, John Lanchester recently said some pertinent things, viz:

Companies, even huge financial companies like Bear Stearns, have personalities, and the personality of Bear, the fifth-largest US investment bank, was bullish, chest-out, cigar-chomping, macho, and unlovable. In 1998, the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management – which would better have been named Short Term Crazy Betting – blew up. It had available cash of $500m but had borrowed and leveraged so extensively that it was holding contracts worth an apocalyptic $1.25tn. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, William McDonough, got together the heads of the big US banks at his offices, and essentially demanded that they rescue LTCM.

This was a moment for the fat cats and Wall Street oligarchs to demonstrate their public-spiritedness by risking their own money to rescue LTCM from its own mistakes, and in the process avert the risk of a global meltdown. The first banker to speak was James Cayne the (literally) cigar-chomping head of Bear Stearns. He was in a good position to know the gory details about LTCM’s derivative holdings, because Bear Stearns cleared LTCM’s trades. Cayne said no. He refused to help LTCM.

The other bankers went berserk. But Cayne didn’t budge, and in the process uttered a magnificently menacing line: “Don’t go alphabetically if you want this to work.” So the other banks bailed LTCM out, and did not love Bear Stearns for not doing so, and at least one person in the meeting openly vowed revenge…