Downey Financial Corp., pummeled by soured mortgages, posted its fifth straight quarterly loss Wednesday, underscoring many observers' concerns that the thrift company may have to find a buyer to avert failure.

"It's pretty severe. … They need a home somewhere," Gary Gordon, an analyst at Portales Partners LLC, said in an interview. "It's hard to see how they can get out from under pressure with constant losses and dwindling resources."

The Newport Beach, Calif., company said its third-quarter loss more than tripled from a year earlier, to $81.1 million, or $2.89 a share.

Downey put out its latest earnings report a week after saying it would cut 200 jobs by eliminating its wholesale lending unit and scaling back its in-house lending.

The company is under pressure from the Office of Thrift Supervision to boost capital, and Mr. Gordon said the third-quarter results will simply heighten that pressure. Downey's net interest income dropped 22%, to $76 million. Its credit-loss provision soared 60%, to $130 million, and chargeoffs rose tenfold, to $97.6 million.

Deposits declined 2%, or about $200,000, from the second quarter, in part as a result of a run on deposits after the IndyMac Bancorp collapse in July. Downey's deposits fell 10% from a year earlier, to $9.6 billion as of Sept. 30.

The $13.3 billion-asset Downey did not respond to requests Wednesday to interview either Charles Rinehart, its chief executive officer, or Brian Cote, its chief financial officer.

Perhaps most telling, Downey's nonperforming home loans nearly doubled from the start of this year and rose fivefold from a year earlier, to $2 billion, or 15.66% of the company's total assets.

Before this decade's housing boom, Downey was long regarded as a conservative lender, but it expanded its risky option adjustable-rate mortgage business during California's real estate upswing.

Since the state's housing bubble began to deflate last year, loan losses have piled up, and Downey's market value has wilted. Its stock has lost more than 90% of its value since July of last year.

The company said in July that it had hired Sandler O'Neill & Partners LP to advise it as it explores a "broad range of strategic alternatives." Analysts interpreted the hiring as a call for either a capital injection or a buyer.

Though Downey has a network of 170 retail bank branches in Southern California, no buyer has emerged.

Mr. Rinehart, the thrift industry veteran who became the CEO last month, said in a press release Wednesday that Downey's Tier 1 capital ratio is 7.48%, above regulators' preferred level. But a year earlier that ratio was nearly 10%, and he said Downey will continue to pursue options to raise capital.

"We are reviewing the recently announced governmental programs to determine which programs, if any, might be available and appropriate for us," Mr. Rinehart said, referring to the Treasury Department's $700 billion plan to rescue the financial sector.

Analysts said a fire sale increasingly appears to be the only viable option for Downey, even though finding a buyer would be complicated by the fact that only a few large U.S. banking companies have both the wherewithal to make big acquisitions and the interest to grow in California.

Bert Ely, the president of Ely & Co. in Alexandria, Va., said in an interview Wednesday that Downey is "running out of time." However, he also noted that a dark-horse buyer — perhaps a regional banking firm in the West or a foreign one looking to move into Southern California — could still emerge.

"It is a company with franchise value, and a deal might get announced tomorrow. Who knows? But the longer this drags on, the more of that value it loses," Mr. Ely said.

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