American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG)
The U.S. government, for the first time since 2008, is officially a minority stakeholder in American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG), with an $18 billion stock sale that made money for taxpayers.
The AIG stock sale will reduce the government's stake in the insurance company to about 22% from 53%.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced Sunday it was selling a large chunk of shares in the bailed-out insurer. The government saved AIG in 2008 and 2009 with a bailout package that totaled around $182 billion.
Including Monday's sale and money from AIG, the Treasury claims it has recovered a total of $197.4 billion from AIG - a $15 billion profit for taxpayers.
It's not surprising the government is selling AIG shares. What is unexpected is that such a large chunk of AIG stock will be released into the market at once, instead of spaced out over time.
One reason to shed the stock faster than planned is to credit U.S. President Barack Obama with taxpayer profit ahead of a tight race for the White House.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday, "We have been committed to exiting those investments as quickly as practicable. What it does demonstrate is an ongoing commitment to recover taxpayer money. It's safe to say the president is pleased with the progress being made as we wind down these investments."
But even with a multi-billion dollar profit, defending private-sector bailouts is an impossible sell to most voters.
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Buy, Sell or Hold: American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) Is Not Worth the Risk
American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) provides insurance services to an international market place. In 2008, the company was bailed out of its positions by the U.S. government, which owned 92% of AIG at its peak.
AIG last week priced new equity, allowing the government to unwind some of its position. The U.S. Treasury sold 200 million shares, or 15% of its AIG stake on Tuesday, but still has 77% ownership of the insurer and another 1.5 billion shares to sell before it is fully out of its investment.
That means this is just the first of many liquidity events. And you don't want to own a stock when you know that a company's largest equity holder is on a mission to get out of its position. Long-term weakness will prevail in this case.
So it's time to "Sell" AIG -- until the U.S. government finishes diluting current shareholders by dumping its equity.