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Is Macquarie Bank the Enron of Toll Roads?
New York investor who warned of Enron collapse suggests Australian toll road giant may be headed for a similar fate.

Jim Chanos
The New York hedge fund manager who was among the first to discover the inconsistencies in Enron's balance sheets now suggests Australia's Macquarie Bank raises similar concerns. Jim Chanos, president of Kynikos Associates, raised red flags about the toll road giant's financial situatuion at the Ira Sohn Research Conference Foundation last Wednesday.

"(Macquarie) doesn't care what it pays for assets and flips those assets to entities funded by other investors," Chanos said, as reported by Bloomberg News. "This only works in a world of cheap credit and asset inflation."

There is no doubting that Macquarie has been hugely successful with fifteen straight years of growing profits. Last year alone, the company made A$1.5 billion.

"The Bank has transitioned from being an Australian institution growing internationally, to being a global institution headquartered in Australia," said Allan Moss, Macquarie's CEO who paid himself $33 million last year. "We provide a range of essential community services to millions of people. These include electricity and gas, water and communications, and land, air and sea transport."

Chanos suggested that off-balance sheet financing and one division of Macquarie selling infrastructure assets such as toll roads to funds that also happen to be managed by Macquarie set the company up for a fall. In the days surrounding Chanos' speech, the bank's stock plunged from a high of $98 a share to $87. Macquarie funds have raised $10 billion to buy up infrastructure in Europe and the United States such as the Indiana Toll Road and the Dulles Greenway in Virginia.

Source: For fund manager who bet against Enron, Macquarie Bank is a sell (International Herald Tribune, 5/28/2007)

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