The director of Home Capital Group (HCG.TO) says the lender had to act fast in order to secure a $2 billion lifeline from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
Alan Hibben told BNN in an interview Thursday that the embattled mortgage lender had to jump at the opportunity before the offer expired.
“This was a deal that was in front of us, it had a fuse on it, it was not going to stay forever,” he said. “We had to make a choice as to whether we had to do this or not. It was not a difficult choice.”
Home Capital had opened its books to about 70 interested parties, but Hibben said the deal with Berkshire was the result of Home Capital reaching out to Berkshire, not the other way around. Hibben said that the terms offered by Berkshire were ultimately the best offer for the company, in spite of the deep discount on the equity and a nine per cent rate on a $2 billion line of credit.
“Our focus on this was what was the cost of the standby — and this was the cheapest standby that we could get,” he said. “There’s no question that Berkshire Hathaway is giving us a glow. We wanted someone who would be visible in the deposit market…Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway. It’s hard to imagine a better brand name than that.”
In spite of Buffett’s plan to take a nearly 40 per cent ownership position in the company, Berkshire will not gain any seats on the board, a matter Hibben said was Buffett’s choice, not Home Capital’s.
Hibben also said this lifeline is only a first step in recovering from recent turmoil and that more work needs to be done.
“We needed a sponsor because the world is a difficult and sometimes uncertain place. We’ve seen exactly what happened to Home Capital over the last six weeks. It’s dangerous.”
Part of the company’s turnaround efforts will include a new CEO, which is expected to be announced next month. Hibben said that while no decision has been reached, there is a short list of contenders.
Home Capital still needs to gain TSX approval to complete deal, as it argues the first tranche should not be put to a shareholder vote under a little-used provision which allows firms to circumvent the shareholder base in the event of financial hardship. Hibben said he doesn’t believe it will be difficult to argue the firm remains under duress, given he thinks it’s still not entirely out of the woods.
Shares of the company surged in morning trading Thursday.