BB&T Corp. wants to be the first bank to repurchase preferred shares sold to the Treasury Department, because restrictions on executive pay and decision-making disrupt its long-term business plans, its chief executive said Wednesday.

Though BB&T is using $3.1 billion raised from the Treasury to boost lending and bolster capital, it expects to repay the government as soon as loan losses moderate, the CEO, Kelly King, said Wednesday at an investor conference. The next three months will be "brutal" for the U.S. economy, though conditions should improve by the end of the year as housing prices reach a bottom, Mr. King said.

Declining property values in Georgia and Florida prompted BB&T to set aside more than $1.4 billion for loan losses in 2008, causing a 12% drop in annual earnings. Its shares this month traded at their lowest level since 1996 amid concerns that losses from commercial real estate lending will mount.

"I don't think it will be long before the market will turn," Mr. King said. "There are a lot of people with a lot of money on the sidelines. They will be ready to buy properly priced equity issues."

He also said the Winston-Salem, N.C., company is committed to retaining its 47-cent-a-share quarterly dividend.

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