Legg Mason Inc. said it will provide added support for four more money-market funds with assets still in structured investment vehicles, the asset-management firm's latest step in trying to stabilize its cash funds and shield investors from losses in the underlying assets.
SIVs, which issue short-term debt to buy other, higher-yielding assets, were severely hurt by the credit crunch that left buyers for the debt on the sidelines due to concerns about exposure to subprime-mortgage securities.
"We are actively pursuing a number of options to eliminate exposure to SIVs in the money market funds," said Chief Executive Mark R. Fetting. "Additionally, we have moved aggressively to restructure our organization and improve our cost profile to reflect current realities."
The company increased its maximum capital contribution obligation by $420 million, which will be used to support SIV securities in the four funds, while noting neither the funds nor their shareholders incurred a loss on the deals.
As of Nov. 30, the value of the SIV exposure in the funds was $2.8 billion, down from $10 billion at Oct. 31, 2007.
The money manager expects to incur charges in the current quarter of $523 million, or $2.24 a share, as a result of the move and other efforts to support its funds.
Legg Mason also said it renewed for one year a total return swap with an unnamed banking institution in support of $355 million of SIV securities. In addition, the company obtained amendments to its existing debt covenants, which will help provide some flexibility amid the market turmoil.
Concerns have recently erupted in the money-market sector, long seen as an ultra-safe place to put cash but which of late has some investors running for the door.
Shares of Legg Mason were down 1.8% to $14.65 in after-hours trading. The company's stock is down 80% over the past year in part due to declining revenue as investors withdraw money from its mutual funds.