Investment Group Takes Large Stake in Countrywide

October 30, 2007 No Comments »

Brandes Investment Partners said yesterday that it had taken a 7.9 percent stake in Countrywide Financial as of Sept. 30, according to a regulatory filing.

The investment group, which seeks out-of-favor Wall Street firms, accumulated 45.7 million shares of Countrywide stock during the third quarter.

The move makes Brandes the second-largest investor in the troubled mortgage lender, behind Legg Mason Capital Management which currently holds a 10.1 percent stake, according to Thomson ShareWatch.

San Diego-based Brandes said it oversees $125 billion, using a value-oriented approach developed by the late investor and Columbia University economist Benjamin Graham.

Last August, Countrywide announced that Bank of America had made a $2 billion equity investment in the lending giant, easing liquidity pressures that were bogging down the financial giant.

And in September, Countrywide revealed that it had arranged for an additional $12 billion in secured borrowing capacity.

Despite the many infusions of cash, Alliance Capital Funds cut their stake in Countrywide from 10.7 percent to a mere 4.1 percent in just over a months’ time during the summer.

Countrywide reported a third-quarter loss of $1.2 billion last Friday, sending shares up a massive 32.4 percent, though they have since pulled back some of those gains.

Yesterday, Friedman Billings Ramsey cut its price target on Countrywide Financial by $5 to $20, citing high credit costs and a soft housing market.

Shares of Countrywide were trading down 58 cents, or 3.43 percent to $16.25 in midday trading on Wall Street.

Separately, Brandes also picked up 12.9 million shares, or a 1.5 percent stake in Washington Mutual, whose shares are trading just above their 52-week low.

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