Banks With 20% Unpaid Loans at 18-Year High Amid Recovery Doubt

bank run
By Bloomberg News

The number of U.S. lenders that can’t collect on at least 20 percent of their loans hit an 18-year high, signaling that more bank failures and losses could slow an economic recovery.

Units of Frontier Financial Corp.,Towne Bancorp Inc. and Steel Partners Holdings LP are among 26 firms with more than one-fifth of their loans 90 days overdue or not accruing interest as of June 30 — a level of distress almost five times the national average — according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data compiled for Bloomberg News by SNL Financial, a bank research firm. Three reported almost half of their loans weren’t being paid.

While regulators may not force firms on the list to close, requiring them to raise capital and curb loans may impede recovery in Florida, Illinois and seven other states. The banks are among the most vulnerable of a larger group of lenders whose failures the FDIC said could cost $100 billion by 2013.

“There are some zombie banks out there,” said Bert Ely, chief executive officer at Ely & Co., a bank consulting firm in Alexandria, Virginia. “Neither the banking industry nor the economy benefits from keeping weak banks in business.”

Ninety-five banks have failed this year at the fastest pace in almost two decades, depleting the FDIC’s insurance fund. The agency proposed on Sept. 29 that financial firms prepay three years of premiums, which would add $45 billion of reserves. The fund sank to $10.4 billion as of June 30, the lowest since 1993. It will run at a deficit starting this quarter, the agency said.

Non-Current Loans

The cost of this year’s failures to the FDIC equals 25 percent of the banks’ assets, according to agency data. Applying the same ratio to the $14.1 billion of assets held by the 26 lenders on SNL’s list means the FDIC could face additional losses of $3.5 billion.

Non-current loans averaged 4.35 percent of the total at U.S. banks as of June 30, the most in 26 years of FDIC data. Regulators typically take notice at 5 percent, according to Walter Mix, a former commissioner of the California Department of Financial Institutions. Corus Bankshares Inc.’s bank unit in Chicago was shut Sept. 11 after 71 percent of its loans soured.

The last time so many banks had 20 percent of their loans more than 90 days overdue was in 1991, near the end of the savings-and-loan crisis, when there were 60, according to an SNL analysis of FDIC data. That year the number of bank failures was less than half those at the peak of the crisis in 1988; this year closings are almost four times what they were in 2008.

For banks with 20 percent of loans overdue, “either they’ve got a massive amount of capital, or the FDIC just hasn’t gotten around to them,” said Jeff Davis, an analyst with FTN Equity Capital Markets in Nashville. Lack of staff and money are slowing shutdowns, he said.

Enforcement Orders

At least 17 of the 26 banks have been hit with civil penalties or enforcement orders that demand improved management and more capital, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Failure to comply can lead to seizure.

The number of distressed banks is larger, with the FDIC counting 416 companies on its confidential list of “problem” lenders at mid-year.

The data were compiled by Charlottesville, Virginia-based SNL from FDIC records. Institutions that had loans less than 50 percent of assets were excluded, as were those closed since the end of June. The calculation didn’t include restructured loans modified after borrowers couldn’t keep up with the original terms, which have default rates of 40 percent to 60 percent within two months, according to SNL senior analyst Sebastian Hindman. Had such loans been included, the list would have swelled to 49 lenders holding $48.4 billion in assets.

Original article at Bloomberg News

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