Reform plan shouldn't lead to GSE ratings cut in the near term: Fitch

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's corporate debt ratings shouldn't be downgraded in the near term as a result of the Treasury Department's to-be-released government-sponsored enterprise reform plan, Fitch Ratings said.

Both companies depend highly on government support because of the net worth sweep. As of the first quarter, Fannie Mae had funding available from the government under the terms of the senior preferred stock purchase agreement (PSPA for short) of $113.9 billion, or 99% of the risk-based capital requirement established by a Federal Housing Finance Agency proposed rule issued in June 2018. For Freddie Mac, that total was $140.2 billion, or 213% of the requirement.

For the ratings to be cut, Fitch's view of this governmental support would have to change, and the rating agency said that was unlikely over a one-to-two year horizon.

Fitch expects the Treasury report, due in September, will likely be pushed behind other priorities like trade negotiations that will divert resources from GSE reform.

As long as the two companies remain in conservatorship, their ratings will be linked to the government's. "In the absence of a formal support agreement, Fannie and Freddie's ratings would be based solely on Fitch's assessment of the stand-alone creditworthiness of the respective entities. Fitch estimates Fannie and Freddie's likely stand-alone rating could be in the 'A' to 'AA' category depending on the level of capitalization," a press release said.

The rating agency's base case assumption about the plan is that "the PSPA funding availability for Fannie and Freddie would not change should the authorities allow them to begin building capital. In December 2017, when the PSPA was amended to allow Fannie and Freddie to retain capital cushions of $3 billion, PSPA funding availability did not change."

Fannie Mae reported second-quarter net income of $3.4 billion, while Freddie Mac reported net income of $1.5 billion.

The status quo on the regulatory front for Fannie Mae most likely lies ahead of the 2020 elections, said B. Riley FBR analyst Randy Binner, who added "there is potential for positive catalysts around the Treasury sweep. We believe that Fannie Mae's equity value has a range of potential outcomes, but that positive equity value can be maintained, highlighting the potential value of the junior preferreds. We have updated our valuation approach for Fannie, moving required capital to 4%, adding an approximate $4 billion pretax charge, due to the first quarter 2020 CECL implementation, and updated our reform probability weights to 50-50."

It has been reported the GSEs might need to take a draw from Treasury because of the Current Expected Credit Loss accounting standard adoption.

Binner is the only stock analyst that follows Fannie Mae; he does not follow Freddie Mac, although some of his analysis can be imputed to that company.

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GSE reform GSEs Housing finance reform Earnings Fannie Mae Freddie Mac Fitch B. Riley Financial FHFA Treasury Department