Barclays Picking At Lehman Carcass; Clock Is Ticking

Barclays Capital (BCS), the U.K.’s largest mortgage lender, is nearing a deal with Lehman Brothers to buy its core broker/dealer business, and is in talks to sell its investment management unit to one or more private equity firms. The now-bankrupt investment banking firm did not include the broker/dealer and investment management subsidiaries in its bankruptcy filing. Terms of the prospective deals are not yet known.

Lehman filed Chapter 11 on Monday to wind down a whopping $613 billion in assets, the largest bankruptcy filing ever. Previous bankruptcy record holders WorldCom and Enron held $126 billion and $81 billion in assets, respectively.

While Barclays eyes the broker/dealer business, private equity firms—including Bain Capital, Hellman & Friedman, Clayton Dubillier & Rice as well as Kohlber Kravis & Roberts—have been bidding for the firm’s famed investment management arm, Neuberger Berman, which Lehman bought in 2003 for $2.6 billion. The entire investment management business—including Neuberger Berman, Lehman Brothers asset management—which focuses on fixed-income strategies, and a private-equity arm, as well as the 500 or so primarily institutional financial advisors that are part of the private client services division, has been valued at $5 billion to $7 billion. At this point, Lehman is playing a game of beat the clock. Any asset sale needs to be approved by a bankruptcy court first. So, the longer a sale takes, the more risk there is to both buyer and seller that key clients and talented employees will flee, diminishing the value of the businesses.

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