Monday, October 31, 2011

MF Global near collapse - IB most likely suitor

MF Global Holdings Ltd., the futures broker run by Jon Corzine, was suspended from conducting new business with the New York Federal Reserve today after posting a record loss.
The firm’s board met through the weekend in New York to consider options including a sale to avert failure, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. It was stopped from doing new business with the New York Fed until it shows it’s able to fulfill its responsibilities as a primary dealer, according to a statement on the regulator’s website. Trading in MF Global’s stock was also halted.
Pressure is mounting on Corzine, the former governor of New Jersey and U.S. senator, after MF Global declined 67 percent last week and its bonds started trading at distressed levels amid its disclosures of bets on European sovereign-debt. MF Global was in discussions with five potential buyers for all or parts of the company, including banks, private-equity firms and brokers, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.
“While the pieces are attractive, figuring out potential buyers is a lot harder,” Robert Rutschow, an analyst with CLSA Credit Agricole Securities in New York, said in an Oct. 28 note to clients. “In the current environment, banks can’t even go to the bathroom without permission from their regulator, let alone buy a brokerage firm that was looking to grow proprietary trading and expand risk-taking activities.”

Interactive Brokers

The most attractive part of the New York-based firm is its retail futures brokerage, which could fetch $500 million to $600 million, he said. MF Global hired Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP for a London affiliate, a person said. The law firm currently represents Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which in 2008 filed the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
MF Global may file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as soon as today and sell assets to Interactive Brokers Group Inc., the Wall Street Journal reported on its website, citing a person familiar with the matter it did not identify. Interactive Brokers would likely make an initial bid of about $1 billion during a court-supervised auction after the company files for Chapter 11, the newspaper cited the person as saying.