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Diary of a meltdown: how the Archegos Capital fire sale went down

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Diary of a meltdown: how the Archegos Capital fire sale went down

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Matt Scuffham

(Reuters) – The meltdown of Archegos Capital Management LP, a New York investment fund run by former Tiger Asia manager Bill Hwang, has sent shock waves across Wall Street and drawn regulatory scrutiny in three continents.

After paying $44 million to settle U.S. insider trading allegations, Hwang in 2013 reinvented Tiger Asia as Archegos Capital, a single-family office through which he could invest his fortune with scant regulatory oversight.

Archegos was little known until last week, when a slump in the value of its leveraged equity bets sparked a liquidity crisis at the fund which in turn set off a scramble among Wall Street banks that had financed the trades to start unwinding them.

The individual banks have not discussed the sequence of events that led to the dramatic fire sale. A spokesman for Archegos did not respond to a request for comment.

Here is how the meltdown unfolded and the aftermath:

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24

The catalyst for Wall Street banks to start liquidating Hwang’s positions was a March 24 stock sale by media company ViacomCBS, to which Archegos was heavily exposed, two sources said.

ViacomCBS’s stock had fallen 9% on Tuesday as the company marketed the offerings and by Wednesday, after it priced, the stock was down 30% from Monday’s high.

The slide set off alarm bells at Archegos’ banks, which called on the fund for more collateral to cover the increased exposure on the equity derivatives – also known as swaps – Archegos had bought on ViacomCBS and other stocks. But it did not have enough liquidity to meet the call, the sources said.

THURSDAY, MARCH 25

In a bid to stave off a default, Hwang arranged a conferencecall with the banks on Thursday to ask them to agree tohold off on selling the shares that underpinned his swap trades in the hopes they would bounce back, those sources said.

Some of the banks, including Credit Suisse, favored holdingoff, but Goldman Sachs and others were keen to start selling shares to free up cash so Archegos could pay them what was owed, those sources said.

FRIDAY, MARCH 26

On Friday before the market opened, Goldman Sachs came to an agreement with Archegos to sell a block of $3 billion to $4 billion worth of the securities that backed Hwang’s positions, according to one of the sources.

Over the course of the day, Goldman sold more than $10.5 billion of shares in ViacomCBS, Baidu Inc and Tencent Music Entertainment Group, among others.

Morgan Stanley offloaded $8 billion worth of shares. Deutsche Bank sold $4 billion of shares related to the Archegos swaps in a private deal on Friday, a source familiar with the transaction said.

All told, Archegos’ banks sold millions of stocks the companies had bet on, dragging down the media sector and others.

That left Credit Suisse and Nomura sprinting for the exit before it slammed shut, but by the time they decided to start selling, the stocks had fallen too far to avert major losses.

By market close on Friday, shares of ViacomCBS had fallen 27% and were down more than 50% for the week.

MONDAY, MARCH 29

Nomura Holdings Inc flagged a possible $2 billion loss, while Credit Suisse disclosed a “material impact,” with sources putting the losses at $1 billion to $4 billion.

Others appeared to escape unscathed. Goldman and Morgan Stanley averted a material financial impact, sources familiar with the trades said. Deutsche Bank said it had significantly de-risked its Archegos exposure without incurring any losses.

TUESDAY, MARCH 30

Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group reported it was on the hook for potentially $300 million, while JPMorgan analysts estimated that Wall Street’s total losses could reach $10 billion. Regulators in the United States and United Kingdom said they were discussing the meltdown with market players.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31

Losses began piling up for Credit Suisse, with sources estimating its total bill could be $5 billion.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced that she would revive a regulatory working group to study risks that hedge funds pose to the financial system.

THURSDAY, APRIL 1

Other banks with exposure continued to emerge. Japanese financial firm Mizuho Financial Group Inc said it may face a loss of 10 billion yen ($90 million) from deals with Archegos, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Matt Scuffham in New York and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich; Editing by Megan Davies, Michelle Price and Matthew Lewis)

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