After surviving a mini-run last week that saw depositors pull $100 million in deposits, IndyMac Bancorp Inc. may have to start selling off assets to stabilize itself financially.
At least that's what some Wall Street analysts believe and the company isn't discounting the idea.
Paul J. Miller Jr., an analyst with Friedman Billings Ramsey & Co., said the first step for the Pasadena-based mortgage lender will likely be to shop its reverse-mortgage business, known as Financial Freedom. But finding buyers in the current climate could be a hard sell.
"They have a tough battle ahead of them," he said. "The real question is how to get capital into that institution. Companies of this size are having a very hard time raising capital."
Analysts, including UBS' Eric Wasserstrom, have been calling on IndyMac for months to try to sell Financial Freedom, a subsidiary that sells reverse mortgages essentially home equity loans that aren't paid back until a home is sold to elderly homeowners.
The unit has nearly $720 million in interest-bearing assets, and produced $1.8 million in income on $33 million in net revenues in the first quarter, according to the company's quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
But even if it can find a taker for the unit, Miller believes that IndyMac will likely only get a fraction of what it could have commanded just a few months ago, given how banks nationwide are having difficulty in raising capital.
Miller likened IndyMac to Coral Gables, Fla.-based BankUnited Financial Corp., which has so far tried and failed to raise $400 million. That thrift, analyst say, waited too long to start raising capital and then couldn't find any interested parties.
IndyMac, which became the nation's largest independent mortgage company after Countrywide Financial Corp. was acquired last week by Bank of America Corp., has been ravaged by the housing market meltdown. The company specializes in so-called "Alt-A" loans, which fall between conforming and subprime loans. The loans were profitable as long as housing prices rose. But once the market sank, its borrowers, often with less-than-perfect credit, couldn't make payments or refinance leading to skyrocketing loan defaults.
And as IndyMac's stock price has fallen and its losses have grown, many observers have grown nervous.
The bank last week endured a run touched off by a letter penned by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., expressing concern over the company's financial state. The letter caused some panic among depositors, who withdrew about $100 million about one-half of 1 percent of the bank's total deposits. Schumer is a member of the Senate Banking Committee.
Though the company weathered the storm, IndyMac could run into further trouble as it attempts to reinvigorate its finances in the coming months.
The company is currently the target of several class-action lawsuits, each alleging that the company engaged in deceptive lending practices that led borrowers into taking out mortgages they couldn't afford.
IndyMac also said last week that its former chief financial officer, A. Scott Keys, resigned. Keys originally took a medical leave of absence in April, at which point S. Blair Abernathy was named CFO.
Despite speculation that the resignation was related to the company's financial state, IndyMac Chief Executive Michael Perry said in a regulatory filing last week that "Keys' resignation was not related to any concerns, issues or disagreements regarding the company's accounting policies or practices or financial disclosures."
The company declined to comment further on Keys' situation.
IndyMac admits it is seeking an infusion of fresh capital.
Evan Wagner, vice president of corporate communications, said the company is looking at everything up to and including selling the company, adding, "Everything's on the table."
Wagner said the company is working closely with regulators, and is looking to restructure, reduce or eliminate certain sectors of the company. But he scoffed at the notion that the company is on the brink of collapse, as some media reports have suggested recently.
The bank, joined by analysts and even federal regulators, criticized Schumer for fueling the fire. The senator said in his letter that he was worried that "IndyMac's financial deterioration poses significant risks to both taxpayers and borrowers." The letter was sent to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.
IndyMac tried to calm depositors by reassuring them that 96 percent of its deposits are insured by the FDIC.
Many observers called the letter irresponsible and Schumer later backed off his original statements, saying he was "reassured" that regulators were handling the situation.
But the controversy unsettled the market, which sent IndyMac's shares last week to an all-time low of 56 cents, down more than 97 percent over the past year. Its market cap, in turn, has shrunk to just under $70 million from more than $2.5 billion less than a year ago.
The company said last week it could not repurchase shares to help push the price back up. In a regulatory filing, the company noted it is "expressly prohibited" from repurchasing stock while it defers interest payments on some securities.
Friedman Billings' Miller said a repurchase wouldn't do much good anyway, at least "not till they get capital."
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