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Saturday, Mar 2, 2024

Nara Unloads Problem Loans

Nara Bancorp Inc. said that it completed a bulk sale of problem loans, receiving discounted cash proceeds of $38.8 million. The sale prompted one Wall Street analyst to upgrade shares of the struggling Koreatown bank.

The bank holding company will record a pre-tax gain of $3.7 million on the sale of the $61.1 million in loans. The accounting gain derives from Nara’s decision to take a $26.3 million loan loss provision in the second quarter.

Aaron Deer at Sandler O’Neill & Partners on Friday upgraded his stock recommendation from “hold” to “buy,” noting that Nara shares are down 45 percent year-to-date, while the S&P bank index is off only 11 percent.

“We think recent credit clean-up efforts should help moderate loss rates, and Nara has fairly robust capital levels … giving us confidence that the company has the wherewithal to manage through its credit challenges,” Deer said in a note to clients.

Other banks catering to Los Angeles’ Korean-American community also have recently cleaned up their loan portfolios by disposing of distressed assets, including Hanmi Financial Corp. and Wilshire Bancorp Inc.

The Nara sale consisted of real estate loans secured by hospitality (44.6 percent), retail (21.8 percent), gas station/car wash (17.9 percent), and mixed-use (15.7 percent) properties. About 43 percent of the loans were made in markets outside major metropolitan areas in California.

Shares closed up 15 cents or more than 2 percent, to $6.42 on the Nasdaq.

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