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Local Banks Face Big Losses, Bailout to ‘Leave Taxpayer Dollars on the Table’

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20 May 09 | WSJ and NYT

Journal study of 940 lenders shows potential for deep hit on commercial property.

Commercial real-estate loans could generate losses of $100 billion by the end of next year at more than 900 small and midsize U.S. banks if the economy’s woes deepen, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal.

Such loans, which fund the construction of shopping malls, office buildings, apartment complexes and hotels, could account for nearly half the losses at the banks analyzed by the Journal, consuming capital that is an essential cushion against bad loans.

Total losses at those banks could surpass $200 billion over that period, according to the Journal’s analysis, which utilized the same worst-case scenario the federal government used in its recent stress tests of 19 large banks. Under that scenario, more than 600 small and midsize banks could see their capital shrink to levels that usually are considered worrisome by federal regulators. The potential losses could exceed revenue over that period at nearly all the banks analyzed by the Journal.

The potential losses on commercial real estate are by far the largest problem facing the midsize and small banks, easily exceeding losses on home loans, which could total about $49 billion, according to the Journal’s analysis. Nearly one-third of the banks could see their capital slip to risky levels because of commercial real-estate losses, the Journal found.

The Journal, using data contained in banks’ filings with the Federal Reserve, examined the financial health of 940 small and midsize banks. It applied the loan-loss criteria that the Fed used in its stress tests of the largest banks. >>>

Efforts to repay bailouts may undercut benefit for taxpayers

Americans were promised a reward for rescuing the nation’s banks. In return for all those bailouts, the banks essentially granted stock options to the government — a potential jackpot for taxpayers once the crisis blew over.

But now banks, eager to get Washington out of their hair, are pushing to undo those investments as quickly — and cheaply — as possible. If the Obama administration acquiesces, billions of taxpayer dollars could be left on the table.

At issue are so-called warrants that the government received from the banks last autumn, when the financial world was teetering. Like options, warrants give their owners the right to buy stock at a set price over a certain period of time, in this case, 10 years.

Now, with many banks itching to return their bailout money, the warrants are raising some thorny questions. What are these investments worth? Should the government drive a hard bargain, or let the banks off easy? Should it maximize profit for taxpayers, or minimize pain for banks? >>>

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Written by Editors

20 May 2009 at 10:47 am

One Response

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  1. […] Local Banks Face Big Losses, Bailout to ‘Leave Taxpayer Dollars on the Table’ (20 May 09) […]


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