Even though it’s been awhile the auction-rate securities market froze in 2008, credit-ratings firm Fitch Ratings’s new report says that US closed-end funds still hold $26.4 billion in auction-rate preferred shares (ARPS). Researchers say that even though this figure is a 57% drop from the $61.8 billion that was trapped in ARS in January 2008 they are still surprised by the current amount.
While ARPS holders have obtained liquidity through many redemptions, there is still a significant amount that is outstanding. Fitch says that 61% (250) of closed-end funds continue to be leveraged with auction-rate preferred shares. This is down from the 347 in January 2008. Fitch’s report is based on a review of 437 US closed-end funds’ publicly available financial statements.
Since the ARS market collapse in February 2008, closed-end funds have redeemed shares at par value via refinancing or by lowering the funds’ leverage. Still others have offered to purchase the shares at below par value. 22% of the funds that Fitch reviewed has fully redeemed about $22.9 billion in ARPS, while 50% undertook partial redemptions of shares totaling $12.7 billion.