The Washington Post

AIG to begin selling Treasury’s shares

The Treasury Department will soon begin unloading its 92.1 percent ownership stake in global insurance giant American International Group, the company announced Wednesday, the latest step in the government’s efforts to recoup the most high-profile bailout of the financial crisis.

AIG said in a statement that it plans to sell 300 million shares, a smaller stock offering than envisioned only months ago. At least 200 million of those will come from the Treasury’s stockpile of 1.66 billion shares.

The stock sale is expected to occur this month.

The offering is the government’s first attempt to cash in on its massive stake in the insurer and to recover billions in taxpayer money that went to rescue the company 21 / 2 years ago as it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. Treasury officials have said they hope to divest the government’s stake in AIG over the next two years.

Using a mixture of loans and capital injections, the Federal Reserve and Treasury committed more than $182 billion to preventing AIG’s collapse during the height of the crisis, though that number has fallen steadily.

Early this year, AIG and government officials executed a plan to help the company sell assets to pay its remaining Fed debt and convert Treasury’s preferred stake in the company into common stock.

Around the same time, the company’s stock price soared to more than $61 per share, leading to predictions that taxpayers could reap a windfall from the AIG bailout. The government’s break-even price is about $28.70 per share.

But the company’s stock price has fallen steeply in recent months, closing Wednesday at $30.65 per share, up 3.5percent on the day. Based on that price, the pending stock offering would be worth about $9 billion.

Treasury’s remaining stake in AIG “would be reduced to approximately 77 percent of our outstanding common stock after the completion of this offering,” the company said in a regulatory filing. The pace and size of future sales, officials have said, will depend largely on market conditions.

Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank Securities, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Securities are the primary underwriters of the offerings, AIG said.

Brady Dennis is a national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on food and drug issues.
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