Three weeks after it applied for a bank holding company charter, GMAC LLC said Tuesday that it may drop the bid, sparking renewed fears about the lender's prospects for survival.
Like several other financial companies this year, GMAC has sought a bank holding conversion as a way to access low-cost funding, and possibly a federal equity investment, in a turbulent market. To get approved, the company must raise capital, which it has been trying to do through a debt-exchange offer. But few debtholders have taken the offer, and many have balked.
Analysts said that if GMAC throws in the towel on the application, a bankruptcy filing would be a logical next step for the lender — an eventuality that could put some substantial assets into play. These include Residential Capital LLC, a mortgage operation with a $392 billion servicing portfolio, and the $32.7 billion-asset GMAC Bank in Midvale, Utah, which had deposits of $17.7 billion as of Sept. 30.
A GMAC bankruptcy would also trigger a new round of liquidity and credit stresses for companies in the auto and mortgage industries the lender serves. But taking ResCap out of the origination market would also create opportunities for other companies to pick up share.
In a note sent to clients on Wednesday, Kathleen Shanley, an analyst at the bond research firm Gimme Credit LLC, wrote that GMAC's "situation is dire absent federal intervention."
GMAC applied for the bank holding conversion last month. The Federal Reserve Board has told the company it must raise its regulatory capital to $30 billion for the application to be approved. (GMAC did not give its current regulatory capital position, but shareholders' equity totaled about $9 billion on Sept. 30.)
The company has tried to boost its capital by repurchasing about $38 billion of its debt. GMAC has been offering bondholders 55 to 85 cents on the dollar in cash, or a combination of similar amounts in new bonds and preferred shares.
It needs 75% of the bondholders to take the offer to achieve its capital goal, but by Wednesday morning only 22% of GMAC bondholders and 21% of ResCap bondholders had done so.
On Tuesday GMAC said it had extended the deadline for the offer by three days, to 5 p.m. Friday. If the offer fails, the company said, it will drop the application with the Fed.
Failure to convert to a bank holding company "would have a near-term material adverse effect on GMAC's … financial position," it said.
Ms. Shanley wrote that the prospects for a successful debt-exchange offer "aren't looking good," and that GMAC's announcement that it will withdraw its bank holding company application if the debt exchange fails "is an implicit threat that the company will consider filing for bankruptcy."
Gina Proia, a spokeswoman for GMAC, would not discuss the possibility of a bankruptcy filing. She called the exchange offer "a critical part of the plan to raise capital to meet regulatory requirements for the bank holding company."
Christopher Wolfe, a managing director with Fitch Inc., said that even if Congress approves a proposed bridge loan for GM, it would not funnel any of that money to GMAC.
The finance company's best hope is "that policymakers understand they need financing markets to reopen and greater access to federal programs for some cost-effective financing," Mr. Wolfe said.
A GMAC bankruptcy likely would precipitate further defaults by GM auto dealerships, Mr. Wolfe said. GM itself "could survive in theory" if it found another financing partner, he said, "but in practicality right now, I don't think so."
"For GM to be able to sell cars and know that its dealers have financial viability, they need to have someone provide the financial support," Mr. Wolfe said. "They need a partner."
Renee Rashid-Merem, a GM spokeswoman, said: "Our goal is restructuring our business and we just outlined a plan of restructuring to Congress. We're going to continue to work with GMAC and make sure there is available credit to consumers."
Terry Wakefield, the chief executive officer of Wakefield Co., a Grafton, Wis., mortgage consulting firm, estimated that 10% or more of ResCap's portfolio is delinquent or in foreclosure.
The high cost of servicing such a portfolio would "lead to further deterioration in the value of selling it," he said.
A bankruptcy filing by ResCap would take further mortgage capacity out of the market, which could benefit small and midsize regional banks, Mr. Wakefield said. But it also would be crippling for some correspondent and wholesale lenders that sell loans to GMAC, he said.