BankAmerica Corp. has shuttered the nation's fourth-largest manufactured housing lender, eliminating hundreds of jobs as it sells the remnants of the business.
The shedding of NationsCredit Manufactured Housing Corp., originally formed by Barnett Banks Inc., was preordained in September when BankAmerica sold its manufactured housing business to GreenPoint Financial Corp. and signed a noncompete agreement with the thrift.
At the end of September, BankAmerica closed its merger with NationsBank Corp., which had acquired Barnett and the manufactured housing unit in early 1998.
On Friday the new BankAmerica eliminated at least 200 jobs in the former Barnett division, in a move that underscored the human cost of the mergers that have swept the industry. Most of the employees had been hired in the past year when NationsBank decided to expand the business.
The dismantling of the former Barnett unit also highlights GreenPoint's increasing clout in the manufactured home loan business. On Monday the New York thrift said it would buy the unit's dealer contacts from NationsCredit, NationsBank's consumer finance subsidiary, for an undisclosed amount. GreenPoint will also buy mobile home loans that originate through BankAmerica branches in the future.
GreenPoint is now the second-largest manufactured housing lender in the country, after Green Tree Financial Corp. of St. Paul.
Bombardier Capital, the Colchester, Vt., finance arm of heavy equipment manufacturer Bombardier Inc., said Monday that it intends to buy the NationsBank unit's wholesale loan portfolio, valued at about $175 million.
When BankAmerica sold its manufactured home unit in September, it said that mobile home customers did not represent enough cross-selling opportunities. A BankAmerica spokesperson said Monday that the company was moving ahead with that strategy, rather than adopting the former NationsBank's strategy of staying in the business.
John Brink, 53, joined Barnett Bank in May 1997 to set up the NationsCredit manufactured housing unit, of which he was president. He said he was "very disappointed" in BankAmerica's actions. "Our business was growing like gangbusters," he said during a telephone interview from his Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., home yesterday.
"It's a real shame, when one out of every three homes sold is a manufactured home, for a bank calling itself Bank of America to not be involved in manufactured home lending," Mr. Brink said.
In 1997 manufacturers shipped 360,000 prefabricated homes, twice 1993 shipments, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute.
The NationsBank unit originated $100 million in loans in September alone, Mr. Brink said.
Nonetheless, BankAmerica's exit is part of a larger trend of banks leaving the business, said Thomas Theurkauf, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. in New York.
"It's a very specialized product, with a narrow cost universe and very much a blue-collar clientele," Mr. Theurkauf said. Many of the larger banks are not focusing on that "lower-middle-market sector," he said, because the "cross-selling opportunities are not there."
Almost 300 employees are now looking for jobs, because the manufactured home unit was shut down, Mr. Brink said.
BankAmerica said it would not sell off NationsCredit, NationsBank's consumer finance company, even though it sold off a consumer finance company in 1996.
The staff reduction in manufactured housing is BankAmerica's second set of layoffs in December. Also on Dec. 4, the bank said it was eliminating one-fourth of its retail brokerage jobs, or about 300 positions.
BankAmerica's corporate policy is to make no further layoff announcements after Dec. 14, because of the holidays, a spokeswoman said.