Freddie Mac loses $7.8B in one quarter

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Published: February 24,2010

Tags: banking and finance, real estate

WASHINGTON — Freddie Mac lost $7.8 billion in the final three months of last year, but the mortgage finance company didn’t need a federal cash infusion for the third quarter in a row.

Freddie Mac, which has been controlled by federal regulators since Sept. 2008, lost $2.39 a share, the company said today. The loss included $1.3 billion in dividends paid to the Treasury Department, which has an almost 80 percent stake in the McLean, Va., company.

The results were a marked improvement over the fourth quarter 2008 when Freddie lost $23.9 billion, or $7.37 a share.

During the most recent quarter, Freddie suffered $7.1 billion in credit losses and a $3.4-billion writedown in low income tax credit investments.

Freddie Mac and its sister company Fannie Mae play a vital role in the mortgage market by purchasing mortgages from lenders and selling them to investors. Freddie Mac, for example, purchased or guaranteed about one in four home loans made last year and helped almost 2 million borrowers refinance.

Together, Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee almost 31 million home loans worth about $5.5 trillion. That’s about half of all mortgages.

The two companies, however, loosened their lending standards for borrowers during the real estate boom and are reeling from the consequences. Nearly 4 percent of Freddie’s borrowers have missed at least three payments.

“The housing recovery remains fragile,” CEO Charles “Ed” Haldeman said in a statement. He noted the risks posed by high unemployment could lead to even more foreclosures.

Freddie Mac has received about $51 billion from taxpayers to date. Late last year, the Obama administration pledged to cover unlimited losses through 2012 for Freddie and Fannie, lifting an earlier cap of $400 billion.

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