Archive for the ‘Commercial Banking’ Category

Deutsche Bank Discriminates Against Indian Rainmaker

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

It is March 10, 2011, and today I read that a German bank is discriminating against a top banker, a “rainmaker,” because he is Indian.  Anshu Jain is a 48 year old head of investment banking at Deutsche Bank and has generated hundreds of millions of Euros in fees for the bank since 1995.

Anshu was born in 1963 in the humble town of Jaipur, India and later studied economics at Shri Ram College of Commerce at Delhi University.  He earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in 1983 and then pursued a Masters in Finance at UMASS Amherst.  He then started as an analyst in derivatives research at Kidder Peabody (now UBS), from 1985 to 1988.  Anshu joined Merrill lynch in 1989, where he started the first hedge fund coverage group.

By 1995, Anshu joined Deutsche’s markets business and stared a unit focusing on hedge funds and institutional derivatives, later becoming the head of fixed income sales and trading and global head of derivatives and emerging markets.  In 2002, he joined the Deutsche Bank Group Executive Committee and became the head of Global markets and joint head of the Corporate & Investment Bank in 2004.  Anshu’s segment of Deutsche Bank’s business generates 80% of the Company’s revenues, and he still may be passed over for CEO.

Mr. Jain has been in the media under speculation that he could succeed Josef Ackerman, but the Company’s Board of Directors won’t have it.  Key members of the bank’s supervisory board are not in favor of an Indian born banker at the helm.  They want to see the bank under more “traditional” leadership.  The bank also wants to diversify revenues away from the profitable investment banking segment.  Is this just an excuse to pass over Mr. Jain?

The next CEO of the 141 year old bank needs a 2/3 majority vote and approval by the 20 member advisory board.  The board has 10 German labor representatives and 10 shareholder representatives.

According to Reuters, “In a written statement Deutsche Bank said selecting the CEO is a task which the “supervisory board is pursuing in an orderly and professional manner. A decision will be taken when the time is right. There is no urgency, given that Dr. Ackermann’s contract runs for another two years.”


Investors, though, are sure to worry that the move could alienate the hard-charging Jain. Supervisory board chairman Clemens Boersig knows this, according to two people familiar with the supervisory board’s thinking, and is working on ways to retain Jain and his colleague, Chief Risk officer Hugo Baenziger. In the end, however, “the supervisory board believes everybody is replaceable,” a member of the supervisory board said on condition of remaining anonymous. The board feels it is too dangerous for the bank to rely on any one person. “You cannot be held to ransom,” another person, who is familiar with the supervisory board’s thinking, said.

Jain, who would not comment on the issue of succession, could well stay. He has had a hand in hiring most of the key staff at the investment bank, and his considerable stake in Deutsche in the form of shares and options gives him a vested interest in the place. But if he does walk, the bank hopes one of his proteges will step up in the same way that Jain himself emerged after his mentor Edson Mitchell died in a plane crash in December 2000. Most of Deutsche’s top 15 investment bankers have been with the firm for more than a decade, something that should instill loyalty toward the firm and not only its leader, the person close to the supervisory board said.

In private conversations between supervisory board members and Deutsche Bank executives, there has been talk of a “Barclays” solution, named after a recent arrangement at British bank Barclays where John Varley, a Briton with connections to the political establishment, took the title of chief executive, while Robert Diamond, a powerful American investment banker, held de facto power in the background. Diamond finally took the reins from Varley two months ago.

“Perhaps one could whet Jain’s appetite for a similar solution,” one of the people close to the supervisory board said. “In the end we may have to divide up the role among different sets of shoulders,” a supervisory board member said adding. “But we’re not yet at that stage.”

A decision on succession won’t be made this year, another supervisory board member, who declined to be named, said.

The German establishment has long been skeptical of investment banking, a conviction that has hardened since the subprime debacle and the ensuing financial crisis. When the German government stepped in to bail out a raft of lenders including Hypo Real Estate, IKB and Commerzbank, many Germans pointed to “casino” style investment banks as the main culprits. Deutsche Bank, Germany‘s biggest, did not require a bailout itself, but had long been a lightning rod for criticism as Europe’s largest economy moved away from old-fashioned “Rhineland Capitalism,” in which a close-knit clique of bankers, politicians and company executives fostered business and dictated change in corporate Germany, toward a more cut-throat “Wall Street” model where shareholder return is the main driver of change.

A raft of supervisory board members believe Deutsche should focus solely on providing simple financial services to corporations and the “real economy,” rather than dabbling in more complex and higher margin financial products. “Wall Street style capitalism doesn’t have many friends on the supervisory board,” a person close to the supervisory board said.

The opposing camp believes that Deutsche should be a place where gifted and risk-hungry bankers can make outsized bets to generate profits for themselves and shareholders. That view is often associated with Jain, who oversees some of the world’s most talented bankers.

Perhaps crucially, members of the board’s four person chairman’s committee, which is formally tasked with drawing up the shortlist of CEO candidates, consists of only Germans: two labor representatives, chairman Boersig, and Tilman Todenhoefer, former deputy chairman of the board of management at Robert Bosch, an engineering company that specializes in high-tech automotive technologies and is known for its skeptical view of Wall Street-style capitalism.

Although not bestowed with formal powers to appoint the next leader, chief executive Ackermann and shareholder representatives on the supervisory board will have considerable influence over who makes it on to the shortlist, a person close to the supervisory board added.


For decades the system that helped steer Europe’s largest economy was controlled by Deutsche Bank and insurer Allianz. Working with large German corporations in which the two financial institutions held stakes, the network of bankers and executives formed what became known as “Deutschland AG”.

The system worked, in its own way. By holding large stakes in companies like Daimler-Benz, Siemens and Thyssen, Deutsche protected German industry from foreign takeovers and provided a system of mutual support in the event of large-scale bankruptcies. Market forces were an afterthought. When German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt decided Germany’s aerospace companies needed to consolidate to stay competitive, he simply talked to then Deutsche boss Alfred Herrhausen, who promptly nudged Daimler-Benz to absorb the big aerospace and defense companies and form German aerospace company DASA.

Deutsche Bank’s seats on corporate boards meant it could win mandates for bond and stock issuances and force changes when it saw the need. In one infamous incident, in 1987, Herrhausen dismissed Daimler-Benz chief Werner Breitschwerdt and installed another executive, Edzard Reuter in his place.

But by the 1990s, as German companies pushed more aggressively into global markets, they needed more sophisticated products even to meet simple needs such as currency or oil price hedging. When Ackermann joined Deutsche in 1996 he was tasked with transforming Germany’s corporate fixer into a “global champion”.

“Joe,” as Ackermann is known by colleagues, had worked at SKA — later to become Credit Suisse — and liked to use tactics and strategy he learned as a Swiss army officer. He decided to accelerate a selloff of industrial stakes — which made up half of Deutsche Bank’s market value as late as 1998, and were proving a drag on the company’s share price — and use the proceeds to build up its core business of banking. The last significant holding — a stake in Daimler — was sold in October 2009.


When Ackerman became the first non-German in the top job in 2002, his academic background and gentle demeanor masked an ambition to shake up the lender. He embarked on a radical program to boost the profitability of bread-and-butter corporate loans, even if that meant alienating established customers.

In early 2003, Ackermann, together with investment banking co-chiefs Jain and Michael Cohrs, and Baenziger, then head of credit risk, introduced the “loan exposure management group” to ensure that each loan to be approved was priced in accordance with international market standards, rather than traditional German ones, and to guarantee that the “overall customer relationship” was generating a 25 percent pre-tax return on equity. The move helped lift Deutsche’s pre-tax return on equity to 14.7 percent today from just 1.1 percent back in 2002.

Competitors like Commerzbank also quietly introduced profitability targets for corporate loans. But it was — and still is — Deutsche that attracted the most criticism for abandoning the old system. Ackermann remains unrepentant. “As a bank with global operations that conducts more than 75 percent of its business outside of its home market, we have obligations to numerous stakeholders around the world,” he told shareholders at Deutsche Bank’s annual general meeting last May. “We have to carefully weigh up these obligations. Sometimes, in Germany, this can lead to criticism by the political community. We have to be able to take it.”

One of Deutsche’s key stakeholders is internal: golden boy Jain. A keen cricket fan, he built up what has become known within Deutsche as “Anshu’s Army” from the original core of mostly American bankers who defected from Merrill Lynch in 1995. The defectors had followed Edson Mitchell, a brash American who demanded fierce loyalty from those who served under him.

Mitchell’s team was instrumental in introducing a more aggressive Anglo-Saxon style of management which sacrificed long-term job security for eye-popping pay packages. Ackermann later cemented the new culture by transferring decision-making power away from the German “Vorstand”, or management board, to a new committee known as the Group Executive Committee, dominated by London-based investment bankers.

The power of the investment banking arm became clear in 2000, when its senior officials sabotaged a signed 30 billion euro merger deal with Deutsche Bank’s main rival, Dresdner Bank, because of overlaps in investment banking. Following a strategy meeting in Florida, Deutsche told Dresdner that of the 6,500 investment bankers at its investment banking unit Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, Deutsche could only take 1,000, a person familiar with the conversation said.

Another clash between the Deutsche’s management board and the supervisory board came in February 2004, when it emerged that Ackermann and senior executives had met Citigroup’s chairman Sanford “Sandy” Weill, and chief executive Charles Price a few months earlier to discuss a takeover of Deutsche Bank. When Ackermann raised the possibility of a sale, members of the German-dominated supervisory board blocked the deal, arguing that Deutsche would be reduced to a local branch office of a New York bank.

As the investment banking arm has grown more powerful, Deutsche’s center of gravity has shifted to London, where key staff including Baenziger and Jain spend most of their time, and where the company now employs more than 8,000 staff. Their London base helps Jain and Baenziger remain close to key clients. But has it also hampered their ability to build up a network of political and corporate contacts in Germany.


A sign of potential trouble emerged two years ago, when the supervisory board chose to dodge the issue of succession by extending Ackermann’s contract until 2013. Some inside the bank blame that in part on Ackermann, who has not successfully nurtured a clear successor.

Tensions between the supervisory board and Deutsche’s management have grown since 2008, when the global financial system went into meltdown. Deutsche was under extreme pressure to help rescue failing rivals. In mid-March 2008, while Ackermann was in New York, U.S. treasury secretary Henry “Hank” Paulson called him and tried to get Deutsche to buy Bear Stearns, a person familiar with the matter said. Later Deutsche was pushed to buy parts of Lehman. In both instances, Ackermann declined. Deutsche also turned down offers to buy parts of UBS in the second half of 2008, two senior executives familiar with the lender’s thinking said. The Swiss bank was looking for fresh leadership and mulling a sale of its investment bank, but Deutsche preferred its wealth management assets, these people familiar with the talks said. Deutsche walked away when it couldn’t get sufficient detail on balance sheet risks. Regulatory approval may also have been a hurdle, a senior Deutsche banker said.

Only months earlier the bank had been giving its traders a remarkable degree of leeway to place large directional bets, a strategy that had proved extremely successful, current and former employees of the global markets division said, also declining to be named. Proprietary traders — small teams that bet with a bank’s own money — made up to 15 percent of revenues at the sales and trading division between 2002-2007, a senior banker familiar with Deutsche’s strategy told Reuters.

At the sales and trading division, managers such as Boaz Weinstein, a former head of credit trading North America and Europe, and Greg Lippmann, global head of asset-backed securities trading and syndicate and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), were particularly aggressive. Lippmann made a $1 billion bet against the subprime market, a gamble that started to come good in the second half of 2008 when global markets fell. Weinstein — a chess fanatic known for taking teams of traders to Vegas for poker tournaments — also had large positions running into the billions, a person familiar with his business said.

Single bets could be very large. One left the bank with 600 million euros of rates exposure, a former colleague who worked at Deutsche’s credit trading division at the time told Reuters. This sort of extreme trading led The Economist to describe Deutsche as a “giant hedge fund” run by an “Indian bond junkie” in 2004, a view some could argue was not justified by the investment bank’s relatively consistent performance over the past decade.

Things were less rosy at the proprietary and credit trading divisions during the financial crisis: they fueled Deutsche’s 4.8 billion euro loss in the fourth quarter of 2008 and prompted its management board to abandon proprietary trading the same year — months before regulators discussed a move in that direction.

Despite shedding almost a third of its risky assets between 2009 and 2010, Jain has managed to retain his top staff and win market share in key areas of investment banking. Research firm Greenwich Associates last year ranked Deutsche Bank No. 1 in U.S. bond trading. Profits from the corporate and investment bank have jumped from almost 4 billion euros in 2000, to a near record level of 6 billion euros in 2010, a testament to Jain’s ability to deliver profits in extremely challenging market conditions, analysts and rivals say.


Ackermann’s recent language indicates how difficult it has become to defend risk-taking. In countless speeches to the German business community and politicians, he has said the country “needs to decide whether it wants a globally successful investment bank or not.”

But the son of a doctor from the village of Mels in Switzerland has also tried to ease tensions between business and politics. “Especially here in Germany where those responsible in business and politics live and work further apart geographically than in other countries, we must make a greater effort to listen to one another,” he told the company’s annual general meeting in Frankfurt in May. “Verbal attacks on so-called speculators and political rhetoric about a ‘war’ between governments and markets is not conducive to such a dialogue,” he said.

Bundesbank president Axel Weber’s name has surfaced as a potential candidate though critics on the supervisory board highlight his lack of experience running a commercial bank, as well as his recent clash with Merkel as weak points for such a candidacy.

Helmut Hipper, a fund manager at Frankfurt-based Union investment, thinks Deutsche should not leave it until the last minute to reveal who will take over: “For an institution like Deutsche it is important to announce a successor. Designating a candidate will provide security and predictability.”

Also in the race with an outside chance are internal candidates such as Deutsche’s Germany chief Juergen Fitschen, retail chief Rainer Neske or Chief Financial Officer Stefan Krause.

Whoever does get the job will need to be able to mediate between Berlin and Germany’s financial players. That became clear during the credit crisis. In September 2008, Ackermann was involved in rescue talks for German lenders IKB and Hypo Real Estate. Discussions involved the then finance minister Peer Steinbrueck, regulator Jochen Sanio and representatives from the German banks.

“You need to speak German, period,” a senior German financial figure who was familiar with these talks said. Ackermann himself, asked if the next chief of Deutsche Bank needs to speak German, said, “That’s for the supervisory board to decide.” He had found speaking German “helped.”

Although Jain has been with the Frankfurt-based bank since 1995, he has never spoken a word of German in public and relies on a translation service during press conferences. Late last year when Jain made an appearance at a banking conference in Frankfurt he was asked “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” a question designed to find out whether he had been brushing up his German. Jain dodged the answer with a smile and said, “I’m not going to go there,” before walking away.”

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BNC Bancorp Buys Beach First, South Carolina Based Lender, $585 Million in Assets

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

The most recent fatality in the commercial banking sector was a South Carolina based bank, the 42nd of the year.  Beach First had $585 million in assets and cost the FDIC fund over $100 million.  Defaults on residential and commercial loans are still driving up bank defaults.  Defaults may reach 140 for 2008 and 2009.

According to Bloomberg,  BNC Bancorp, the North Carolina- based lender with $1.6 billion in assets, purchased a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina bank as the number of U.S. bank failures this year climbed to 42.

Federal bank regulators closed Beach First National Bank yesterday and named the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as receiver, according to a statement on the FDIC Web site. BNC’s lender, Bank of North Carolina, purchased Beach First and most of its $585.1 million in assets. The collapse cost the FDIC’s deposit-insurance fund $130.3 million.

“Beach First’s excellent customer base was a significant attraction to our company in considering this transaction,” BNC Bancorp Chief Executive Officer W. Swope Montgomery Jr. said in a statement. Bank of North Carolina picks up seven branches in the transaction.

Lenders are collapsing amid losses on residential and commercial real estate loans. U.S. “problem” banks climbed to the highest level since 1992 in the fourth quarter and FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair warned Feb. 23 that the pace of failures may exceed last year’s total of 140.

BNC counts as a board member Charles T. Hagan, husband of Senator Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat. Beach First is the only South Carolina bank to have failed since Oct. 1 2000, the FDIC said.

Blackstone Buying Failed Banks with Aid of Former Bank President Oates

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

While TPG recently returned more than $2 billion in commitments to purchase failed banks, Blackstone has found a former bank President who is guiding them to buy financial institutions in the United States, a very risky, but potentially lucrative endeavor.

According to Ms. Thornton and Mr. Keehner, “Blackstone Group LP, the world’s largest private-equity firm, is in preliminary talks to raise $1 billion to buy failed banks, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

The New York-based firm is working with R. Brad Oates, a former president of Bluebonnet Savings Bank, to raise the funds for a blind pool, said the person, asking not to be named because the information is private. Blind pool investors usually back a single management team without having a say in what company it will acquire.

Peter Rose, a spokesman for Blackstone, declined to comment.

Buyout firms are seeking bargains as lenders fail at the fastest pace since 1992. Regulators have seized at least 160 lenders since Jan. 1, 2009, and the FDIC’s confidential list of “problem” banks stands at 702 with $402.8 billion in assets, according to a Feb. 23 report.

Related Cos. founder Stephen Ross and partners Jeff Blau and Bruce Beal Jr. raised about $1.1 billion last month to help their SJB National Bank acquire a seized U.S. lender. Among their investors are New York hedge-fund firm Elliott Management Corp. and David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital Inc., a person with knowledge of the matter said last month.

Regulators have been debating how much leeway to give private buyers of failed banks because of concern that they may take too much risk with federally insured deposits. Some investment groups have recruited former bankers as officers to reassure regulators.

William Isaac, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s former chairman, is also leading a group of ex-regulators and bankers raising $1 billion to buy failed lenders in the U.S. Southeast, a people briefed on the plan said last month.

Last May, Blackstone partnered with WL Ross & Co. and Carlyle Group to buy BankUnited Financial Corp. The group agreed to inject $900 million and named John Kanas, the former head of North Fork Bancorp, to run the Florida lender after it collapsed.”

China Mobile Attempts to Purchase Pudong Bank!

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

One of the simplest investment and business rules has to be to avoid purchasing businesses where one does not have a core competencies.  China Mobile’s recent successes seem to have given it the confidence to ignore that rule.  During the trading session, China Mobile’s share’s plummeted after it announced its intention to buy out Pudong Bank.  The reason behind the merger was to offer electronic payment services through mobile phones.  This would allow China Mobile to leverage the banking franchise for its benefit and tap into the online market in China, which has been estimated at $200 billion yuan.  Still, the risks of such a purchase may outweigh the benefits.

Mark Lee of Bloomberg reported that “China Mobile Ltd. fell in Hong Kong trading on concern the world’s biggest phone company by value is deviating from its main business by considering an investment in Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co.

China Mobile fell 2.4 percent to HK$72.85, its lowest close since Jan. 4. The carrier has lost HK$89.3 billion ($11.5 billion), or 5.8 percent, of market value in three straight daily declines through today and has underperformed the benchmark Hang Seng Index since Feb. 26, when Guotai Junan Securities Co. said the carrier may buy a stake in Pudong Bank.

China Mobile Chairman Wang Jianzhou said yesterday the possible investment in Pudong Bank, which Guotai Junan estimates may cost $5.9 billion, would help the carrier build its electronic commerce business and lift earnings. The transaction would help replenish capital at the Shanghai-based lender after Chinese banks extended a record 9.59 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) of credit last year.

“You don’t need to buy a bank to get into mobile banking. They should just stick to what they do,” said Christopher Wong, a fund manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, which manages $45 billion of assets, including China Mobile shares, in Asia excluding Japan. “We’ll be disappointed if this goes through. This is not what they do.”

Pudong Bank, part-owned by Citigroup Inc., said yesterday in a Shanghai stock exchange filing that talks on a possible investment by China Mobile are under way. Wang said a deal may be concluded soon and would lift China Mobile’s earnings per share as support from a bank helps it expand in e-commerce, a market dominated domestically by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Trading Halted

China Mobile, which had 256 billion yuan of cash at the end of June according to its first-half earnings report, may buy 2.2 billion Pudong Bank shares for 17.82 yuan apiece, Guotai Junan analyst Wu Yonggang wrote in a note last week, without citing anyone. That’s 14 percent lower than the stock’s closing price before trading was halted on Feb. 26 pending an announcement about a strategic investment.

“It doesn’t make sense for the management to be using funds this way,” said Bertram Lai, who rates China Mobile shares “neutral” at CIMB-GK Securities in Hong Kong. “They should be returning it to shareholders.”

China Mobile said the deal would increase earnings per share and help the company develop its mobile-payment operations.

“The company is fully confident that this share subscription will deliver synergies, and bring benefits in the short, medium and long term to investors,” it said in an e-mail today.

Underperforming Shares

The phone carrier, with a market capitalization of HK$1.5 trillion ($193.2 billion) as of yesterday, hired China International Capital Corp. as its financial adviser, two people involved in the talks said, asking not to be identified because of confidentiality agreements.

“Such investment raises some concerns,” Morgan Stanley analysts including Yvonne Chow wrote in a report today. “Given its dominant market share in mobile, we believe a partnership with a relatively larger bank would help China Mobile gain a much better platform for developing further applications.”

China Mobile hadn’t held talks with other lenders before the current discussions with Pudong Bank, chairman Wang told reporters in Hong Kong yesterday during a teleconference from Beijing. He said Pudong Bank’s share price was “reasonable.”

Alipay, owned by Hangzhou, east China-based Alibaba Group, controls almost 60 percent of China’s online-payment market, according to its Web site. Chinese consumers bought more than 180 billion yuan of goods and services on the Internet last year, according to Fang Meiqin, research director at BDA China Ltd, a Beijing-based telecommunications industry consultant.

Calling the Shots

The value of e-commerce transactions settled using mobile handsets will probably increase to more than 7 billion yuan by 2013, according to BDA.

“It will become much more convenient for China Mobile to offer electronic payment services if they have an alliance with a bank,” said Fang. “In China, technology companies don’t have the necessary licenses to offer financial services.”

A deal with Pudong Bank wouldn’t undermine China Mobile’s ability to partner with other lenders, Wang said.

“I don’t know what strategically that would provide China Mobile,” CIMB’s Lai said. “As the leading player in the market, it can theoretically call the shots and partner with anybody.”

China Mobile wouldn’t be alone in investing in financial firms. South Korea’s SK Telecom Co. last year agreed to buy a stake in Hana Financial Group Inc.’s credit-card unit for 400 billion won ($349 million), while Globe Telecom Inc. in the Philippines agreed to buy 40 percent of BPI-Globe BanKO Savings Bank in 2008. Nokia Oyj, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, last year bought a minority stake in Obopay, a supplier of mobile banking services in the U.S. and India.

Stimulus Package

Few mobile banking ventures in emerging markets have been successful, Morgan Stanley wrote.

China Mobile started allowing some users to pay bills with their handsets last year, and began providing other services such as mobile television and electronic readers, Chairman Wang said in November. The company is expanding its range of value- added services as competition intensifies with rivals China Telecom Corp. and China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd.

Pudong Bank, with 491 outlets nationwide, wants to boost financial strength after expanding loans by 30 percent in the first nine months of last year to support China’s 4 trillion- yuan economic stimulus package. The Shanghai-based lender in September it raised 15 billion yuan in a private placement to ensure it has enough capital to meet loan demand and regulatory requirements.

EasTone Telecommunications

China Mobile last year agreed to pay as much as NT$17.8 billion ($557 million) to buy a 12 percent stake in Taiwan’s Far EasTone Telecommunications Co., and the Chinese carrier in 2006 bought Hong Kong’s People’s Telephone Co. to expand overseas.

China Mobile Communications, which owns 74 percent of Hong Kong-listed China Mobile, bought a 19.9 percent stake in Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings Ltd. in 2006. A year later, the phone company acquired Paktel Ltd., a wireless carrier in Pakistan, its first purchase outside Chinese territory.”

U.S. FDIC Fund Low on Reserves

Monday, March 1st, 2010

The thought itself is scary, but the FDIC is running out of reserves, and the number of problem banks is still rising at an accelerated pace.  Since credit lags market conditions, this will continue to be a problem, especially with the commercial real estate market havoc that is being wrought at the moment.  If lending continues to slow, income will also continue to slide for these banks, a very stick situation indeed.

According to Mr. Mattingly of Bloomberg, U.S. “problem” banks climbed to the highest level in 17 years, signaling failures may accelerate in 2010, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said. Bank lending had the biggest retreat in more than six decades.

The FDIC included 702 banks with $402.8 billion in assets on the confidential list as of Dec. 31, a 27 percent increase from 552 banks with $345.9 billion in assets at the end of the third quarter, the regulator said today in a quarterly report. “Problem” banks account for 8.7 percent of all U.S. lenders.

“The growth in the number and assets of institutions on the problem list points to a likely rise in the number of failures,” FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said today at a Washington news conference. “Both the problem list and bank failures tend to lag behind economic recovery.”

Regulators are closing banks at the fastest pace since 1992, seizing 20 lenders through seven weeks this year after shutting 140 institutions in 2009 amid loan losses stemming from the collapse of the home and commercial mortgage market. A total of 28 banks failed in 2007 and 2008 combined.

“The pace is going to pick up this year and is going to exceed where we were last year,” Bair told reporters.

Banks showed “incremental” improvement in the fourth quarter, Bair said. Overall profit was $914 million, compared with a $38 billion loss in the year-earlier period. Net charge- offs slowed for a third consecutive quarter, the agency said.

“It’s not that this was a strong quarter,” Bair said. “It’s simply that everything was so bad last year.”

Income Slips

Banks reported combined net income of $12.5 billion for 2009, compared with $4.5 billion in 2008. The industry reported net income of $100 billion in 2007.

Industry lending fell as banks seek to emerge from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Loans fell 7.5 percent in 2009, the largest annual decline since 1942, Bair said.

SunTrust Banks Inc., the seventh-biggest U.S. bank by deposits, reported commercial lending in 2009 declined 21 percent, or about $8.5 billion, from the previous year, according to a regulatory filing today.

The lending declines reflect tightened standards imposed on borrowers combined with a drop in consumer demand, the FDIC said. Larger institutions accounted for 90 percent of the lending retreat, the agency said.

“The large banks need to step up to the plate” to increase lending, Bair told reporters.

Assets Decline

Industry assets declined 5.3 percent to $731.7 billion for the year, the largest annual drop in the since the FDIC was created more than 75 years ago, the agency said.

Banks, especially smaller community lenders, are “bumping along the bottom” of the credit cycle, Bair said.

“A wrenching experience of this magnitude takes time to get over and while there are signs of improvement it’s still a very difficult time for a lot of institutions,” Eugene Ludwig, chief executive officer at Promontory Financial Group and former Comptroller of the Currency, said today in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Provisions for loan losses fell 14 percent to $61.1 billion in the fourth quarter from the year-earlier quarter, the FDIC said.

The agency insures deposits at 8,012 institutions with $13.1 trillion in assets. The insurance fund is maintained to reimburse customers for deposits of as much as $250,000 when a bank fails.

Insurance Fund Deficit

The insurance fund deficit widened to $20.9 billion from $8.2 billion in the previous quarter, when the account had its first negative balance since 1992. The FDIC last year required banks to prepay three years of premiums, raising $46 billion on Dec. 30, the agency said today. The fourth-quarter balance doesn’t reflect the payments, as premiums are to be phased in each quarter during the next three years, the agency said.

The agency also has the authority to tap a $500 billion credit line with the Treasury Department.

The FDIC may gain power in the overhaul of the financial regulatory system. House and Senate lawmakers are considering expanding the agency’s authority to wind down systemically important, non-bank financial institutions, such as insurer American International Group Inc., which contributed to the collapse of the financial system in 2008.

Bair has requested the power to deal with the failing firms. The House passed a bill giving Bair the new authority while in the Senate, Banking Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, is drafting the language of its bill.

A draft of the Senate bill will be put together “in the coming days,” Dodd said yesterday in Washington.”

For more information, please visit Bloomberg…

Barclays Sees Strong Outlook – Diamond (aka the British Dimon)

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Barclays reports record profit, sees room for growth in U.S.  Lehman was the platform they needed, but growth will be fueled by Asia and emerging markets…



Record Bank Failures

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

United Commercial Bank LogoBy Friday, November 6, 2009, 120 banks in the United States were closed by the FDIC due to defaulted loans.  The latest was San Francisco’ s United Commercial bank.  There were only 25 bank failures in 2008, but this number has more than quadrupled this year.  The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has said that it would take over United Commercial’s assets, which would amount to more than $7.5 billion in deposits.  Due to the recent hits to the FDIC’s deposit insurance fund, it has considered a proposal to have U.S. banks pay fees three years in advance in order to raise $45 billion of new liquidity.  Recent failures of U.S. banks include the closings of Prosperan Bank in Minnesota and the United Security Bank of Georgia.

Please see Wall Street Journal for full news article…