The reluctance of the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury Department to back a Lehman Brothers deal financially seemed to be making it harder, but not impossible, for an acquirer to come to its rescue, observers said last week.
With speculation continuing about a Bank of America Corp. bid, observers said Friday that there are other ways a financial institution could purchase Lehman Brothers, such as a making multiple-party deal or buying Lehman and separating it into parts.
Though it preannounced earnings last week and laid out plans to shore up its balance sheet, investors have lost confidence in the 158-year-old investment bank. The plans include selling off a 55% stake in its investment management unit, which includes Neuberger Berman, and spinning off commercial real estate assets.
Lehman's stock has fallen roughly 90% in 12 months.
The Fed and the Treasury have reportedly been working with Lehman and talking to potential buyers. However, the federal government reportedly does not want to use any money to assist Lehman beyond the liquidity facilities already available to it — namely, the Fed's discount window.
Stuart Plesser, a Standard & Poor's Corp. analyst, said late Thursday that he would favor a B of A acquisition only if it came with government backing of Lehman assets. By early Friday, however, he said he had changed his mind. "Even without the government backing, I can see why a company would be interested in these assets."
He said his main concern now is B of A's ongoing difficulties with the Countrywide Financial Corp. acquisition. "You're integrating a complex deal with Countrywide, and then you'd be putting another one on its heels. It obviously adds risk."