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CNBC: Barclays Has About $300 Million Exposure to Bear Stearns Funds

Barclays Bank has about $300 million of the riskiest assets within two troubled hedge funds at Bear Stearns that have other banks either freezing assets in the funds or unwinding their positions in order to cut potential losses, CNBC's Charlie Gasparino reported.

Citing traders close to the situation, Gasparino described the Barclays assets as "radioactive stuff" that would be "next to impossible to auction."

Barclays had no comment when reached by Gasparino.

On Wednesday, Merrill Lynch finished auctioning off most of the $800 million in assets it had in the Bear Stearns funds, which controlled more than $20 billion in a combination of investor and lender money, and had invested heavily in various securities backed by subprime loans.

"If Barclays Bank does hold this stuff that it can't sell, Barclay's will take one of the biggest hits on its balance sheet when all gets said and done," Gasparino said.

The auction, which began after 4 pm New York time, was described during the day as going "OK," Gasparino reported.

Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase reached an agreement with Bear Stearns to unwind its position with the funds rather than seize its assets and sell them, as Merrill did, Gasparino has learned.

Gasparino said a big question is whether other firms will follow Merrill's example and sell off the assets or just unwind them the way JPMorgan Chase did.

Other key lenders include Goldman Sachs Group and Bank of America.

The Bear Stearns hedge funds, which got hit by double-digit losses in April based on subprime mortgage market bets, have some $9 billion in loans.

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