Moving to restructure its troubled credit card business, Bank of New York Co. is set to unload another sizable piece of its card portfolio.
Bank of New York said Wednesday it will sell $800 million in credit card receivables to Associates First Capital Corp., Dallas, a unit of Ford Motor Co. While terms of the deal were not disclosed, industry sources said Bank of New York will receive only $840 million for the loans, representing a purchase premium of 5%.
Last year, the average credit card portfolio fetched a premium of 17% over receivables.
Industry experts said the sale, which is expected to be completed by Friday, is in line with Bank of New York's strategy to restructure its credit card business, which has suffered from high delinquency and chargeoff rates. The bank wrote off 7% of its card receivables last year, compared to an industry average of 6%.
The sale will leave $56 billion-asset Bank of New York with $4.4 billion in card receivables and about 3.6 million accounts-a 15% reduction of its current portfolio. The card portfolio shrank last year when the bank lost a contract to issue credit cards to members of the AFL-CIO.
As a result, Bank of New York sold $3.4 billion in card receivables to Household International. The loss of those 2.2 million accounts have hurt the bank's once-mighty card machine, observers said.
"The loss of the AFL-CIO portfolio last year has taken the life out of Bank of New York's bank card business," said David Robertson, president of the Nilson Report, a card industry newsletter published in Oxnard, Calif. "You will see them divest themselves of card accounts with which they do not have multiple relationships."
Indeed many regional banks, hit hard by delinquencies and chargeoffs, are now seeking to market credit cards to customers closer to home. The 825,000 accounts that Bank of New York is selling to Associates were opened by customers far from the bank's New York base, industry sources said.
A Bank of New York senior vice president, Paul Leyden, said the bank would "definitely remain in the credit card business" and continue to grow its existing portfolio "with such things as cobranded partnerships similar to those we have established over the years."
Diane Glossman, a bank analyst for Salomon Brothers, said the bank is trying to reduce its exposure to risk on the credit card side. The portfolio Bank of New York plans to sell contains "low quality receivables," she added.
It is no surprise that Associates was there for the bargain.
"Associates is the most aggressive buyer of credit card portfolios on lower income, higher credit risk individuals," said Susan Roth, an analyst with Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette.
Associates currently has 7.6 million credit card accounts, with $7 billion in outstandings.
"We're committed to growing our credit card business through portfolio acquisitions, major partnerships, and through direct sourcing," said Joseph N. Scarpinato, Associates' executive vice president, credit card operations. "We know how to bid these portfolios, market to them, and assimilate them."
Mr. Robertson of the Nilson Report said that when the sale is complete, Bank of New York will fall to No. 20 among card issuers from its current position of No. 17. Associates will jump to 15th, from 19th.