Florida’s Freedom Bank Is 17th in U.S. to Be Closed This Year

Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) — Freedom Bank of Bradenton, Florida, became the 17th U.S. bank seized by regulators this year as the deepest housing slump since the Great Depression triggers record foreclosures and mounting losses.

Freedom, with $287 million in assets and $254 million in deposits, was shut yesterday by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was named receiver. Fifth Third Bancorp of Cincinnati will assume the deposits and buy $36 million of assets, the FIDC said. Freedom’s four offices will open Nov. 3 as Fifth Third branches.

Regulators have closed the most banks this year since 1993, and the collapses of Washington Mutual Inc. and IndyMac Bancorp Inc. were among the biggest in history. The housing slump and tight credit led to enactment of a $700 billion bank-rescue plan and the U.S. Treasury is using the fund to buy $250 billion in preferred shares in banks.

Fifth Third will pay a premium of 1.16 percent, or about $2.9 million, to assume the deposits, the FDIC said. The deposit insurance fund, supported by fees on insured banks, will pay an estimated $80 million to $104 million, the agency said.

State regulators in August closed First Priority Bank, also based in Bradenton, which is south of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Fifth Third on Oct. 28 said it will sell $3.45 billion in preferred shares and warrants as part of the Treasury Department’s plan to boost bank capital ratios and promote lending.

First Third Share

The bank has lost $258 million in the past two quarters on rising losses on real-estate loans. Buying Freedom will raise Fifth Third’s market share in the Bradenton-Sarasota market to fourth from eighth, according to recent FDIC data.

Fifth Third is struggling with rising delinquencies in Florida, which has reported among the sharpest declines in home price. The bank said 38 percent of $462 million in loans deemed uncollectible in the third quarter were in Florida, compared with 27 percent in Michigan and 16 percent in Ohio.

The FDIC oversees 8,451 institutions with $13.3 trillion in assets, and insures deposits of up to $250,000 per depositor per bank and the same amount for some retirement accounts. The agency has proposed doubling premiums charged to banks for coverage to replenish its reserves amid agency forecasts that bank failures through 2013 will cost almost $40 billion.

Washington Mutual, the biggest savings and loan, sold its assets to JPMorgan Chase & Co. Sept. 25 after customers drained $16.7 billion in deposits in less than two weeks. Wachovia Corp., the sixth-biggest bank, is being bought by Wells Fargo & Co. for $11.7 billion.

PNC

PNC Financial Services Group Inc., the biggest bank in Pennsylvania, on Oct. 24 agreed to buy National City Corp. of Cleveland for about $5.2 billion, with $7.7 billion from the Treasury bailout fund.

The Treasury is buying preferred shares in nine banks: Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., Merrill Lynch & Co. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and State Street Corp.

The FDIC is running a successor to California lender IndyMac, closed in July, and as of Oct. 24 said it had eased mortgage terms for more than 3,500 borrowers. The failure drained more than 10 percent from the U.S. insurance fund that had $45.2 billion at the end of the second quarter.

The agency in August said 117 banks were classified as “problem” in the second quarter, a 30 percent jump from the first quarter. The agency, which doesn’t name “problem” lenders, will update its assessment in November.

“Banks overall are very well capitalized,” FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair told the Senate Banking Committee on Oct. 23. “We have some banks with some challenges, but the vast majority are well capitalized.”

The U.S. closed 27 banks from October 2000 through the end of last year, according to a list at fdic.gov.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alison Vekshin in Washington at avekshin@bloomberg.net; David Mildenberg in Charlotte at dmildenberg@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: November 1, 2008 00:00 EDT
By Alison Vekshin and David Mildenberg

Source: Bloomberg

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