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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Great Depression vs. Great Recession: Unemployment - Updated April 2015

The reported unemployment rate during the Great Depression was significantly higher than the reported unemployment rates of the Great Recession. 

But are the two rates comparable? Before 1938, children were a significant part of the labor force.  In 1900, children younger than sixteen made up as much as eighteen percent of the labor force.  It was only when the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 became law that children younger than sixteen were barred from working in manufacturing and mining but not agriculture.

To make the numbers more comparable, it is better to get the ratio of Employment to the Total Population (which includes children). When we do this, the two measures are not so far apart.  In 1929, the year "0" for the Great Depression, 54.41% of the total population was employed.  By 1933, year "4", only 41.97% of the population was employed. But the rise in employment was dramatic.  Four years later, 47.63% of the population was employed, almost six percentage points higher. The employment momentum only stalled when the tax hikes of 1937 induced another recession in 1938 and new child labor laws barred children from the labor force.  If the momentum had continued, the employment ratio would have recovered in less than five years.

In 2007, the year "0" of the Great Recession, 48.42% of the population was employed.   Four years later, only 44.89% of the population was employed, a drop of less than 4 percentage points.  By April 2015, a little over three years later, only 46.27% of the population is employed, an increase of only 1.38% percentage points.  The growth rate of employment was less than a fourth that of the Great Depression.  At this rate, it will take six more years before employment recovers to that of Year "0".

"Great Depression vs. Great Recession"

Source:,, Reinhart and Rogoff, "This Time is Different"

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Philippine Real Estate Bubble Has Already Burst for HOUSE (8990 Holdings, Inc.)

The information has been out for almost two weeks now.  It was disclosed deep in the bowels of the 2014 Annual Report of 8990 Holdings, Inc. (HOUSE).  The real estate bubble has burst least for HOUSE.  There was a marked deterioration in 2014 in 8990 Holdings' Past Due but Not Impaired Installment Contract Receivables both in absolute numbers and relative to its total portfolio of Installment Contract Receivables (ICRs).  An aging analysis buried in the 2014 Annual Report showed that delinquencies jumped by a minimum factor of 10 in all aging categories, whether the unimpaired but past due ICRs were delinquent for: 1) less than 30 days; 2) 31 to 60 days; 3) 61 to 90 days; 4) over 90 days.

A few charts tell the story:

Total Past Due But Not Impaired ICRs now comprise 2.45% of 8990 Holdings Total ICR portfolio as of 2014, an exponential jump from 0.25% in 2013 and 0.77% reported in 2012.

This, by itself, is not worrying.  What is worrying is that 8990 Holdings also reported a gargantuan hockey stick type increase in its Impaired ICRs, both in absolute value and relative to total ICRs.

So now we can see that both Past Due But Not Impaired ICRs as well as Impaired ICRs collectively comprise 12.29% of 8990 Holdings Total ICR portfolio of Php 14.113 billion as of December 31, 2014.

But what does this all mean?

Under 8990 Holdings' business model, the company functions like an in-house bank or mortgage lender, providing a substantial amount of financing to its customers so that these customers in turn can buy their homes.  This model is great... when it works.  For undertaking the risk of financing its customers, the company earns interest income from its customers over and above the gross profits it earns from the sale of a property.  Under this model, the company owns the title to the properties it sells until the property is fully paid off, obviating the need for an expensive and protracted foreclosure process when a customer defaults.

Unlike a bank, 8990 Holdings has a higher cost of funds because not only does it borrow money from banks to finance the development of its properties, it also borrows money from banks to finance its loans to its customers, often by assigning its ICRs to a bank in exchange for ready cash.  A bank has a much cheaper source of funding: its depositors who these days, are paid almost nothing for keeping their money in the bank.  In order to earn a profit on its financing operations, the home financing provided by 8990 Holdings tends to be much more expensive than the home loans provided by banks. Also, the customers of 8990 Holdings tend to me much more marginal and less credit-worthy than bank customers.  After all, why would anyone go to 8990 Holdings if they can get a much cheaper loan from a bank?

Has the company been too aggressive in its focus on sales to the point of sacrificing credit quality? Perhaps.  Have home prices gone up so much past the point of affordability?  Maybe.  Have the company's customers been hit with an economic shock in the past year?  If they have, it is not obvious because the nation's GDP grew at a decent 5.30% clip in 2014. But according to the Philippines Housing Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), there was a 16% drop in HLURB's Licenses to Sell in 2014 in the Socialized Housing space, 8990's market niche.

With 12.29% of its customers not paying off their properties on a timely basis means that as a bank, 8990 Holdings would rank as the 19th worst bank in the country in terms of Gross NPLs/Gross Total Loan Portfolio. 

Around 80% of these past due borrowers are in severe default, hence the impaired status.  In other words, these borrowers are in the process of being evicted from their homes and their homes repossessed by the company.

The company has already made provisions of Php 130.857 million for impairment losses and has recognized a loss of Php 56.972 million on property repossessions.  Expect more to come as the "pig" of impaired ICRs" winds through the "python" of the company's eviction and repossession process.

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