Struggling to regain its footing, a Beverly Hills bank last week announced its second recapitalization plan in less than three years.

Through an agreement in principle with private investors, First Charter Bank will issue a new series of noncumulative convertible preferred stock, increasing its capital by about $4 million. The proceeds will represent about 70% of the bank's capital at closing.

In January 1994, having fallen on hard times because the Southern California real estate market had collapsed, the bank raised a little more than $6 million through a public stock offering.

First Charter said the latest offering, scheduled to close by Sept. 1, will leave it adequately capitalized for regulatory purposes, lifting a threat of government seizure.

"We think we're on the right track," said Robert F. Junet, chief financial officer. "This will make a big difference, and we think it will have a positive effect."

The man who led the last recapitalization, former First Charter chairman and co-founder Jack Salzberg, could not be reached for comment. He resigned in October, according to company officials.

Mr. Salzberg, one of the company's largest stockholders, engineered the $6 million stock offering in 1994, which added 1,500 stockholders and got the company listed on the Nasdaq market. He said at the time that the bank was well on its way to recovery.

Jerry A. Jones, managing director of Duff & Phelps Capital Markets Co., Los Angeles, said the latest capital-raising initiative is probably designed just to keep the bank afloat.

"Typically in a case like this the bank is diluting its existing shareholder equity in order to survive," he said.

The bank, a very profitable high-end residential construction lender in the 1980s, was hit hard by plunging land values in west Los Angeles.

Losses began to pile up, culminating in a second-quarter loss of $2.8 million. First Charter was deemed critically undercapitalized by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in July and ordered to take prompt corrective action.

"We're still winding off the effects of the real estate recession," said chief executive Peter Bustetter. "We think we're nearing the end of the trip down and are finally starting back up."

Assets have been nearly halved, from $203 million at the start of 1993 to a little more than $110 million.

First Charter was delisted from the Nasdaq July 23 because its stock had dropped below $1 a share. It has been trading around 50 cents a share for much of the past month.

The bank announced in January that it had engaged the New York investment bank firm of Sandler O'Neill & Partners to evaluate its future. Mr. Junet said Sandler O'Neill helped put together the capital-raising deal. In 1994, it used Baraban Securities.

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