California Federal Bank detailed plans this weekend to lay off 10% of its work force, furthering speculation that the brand-new thrift is preparing to put itself up for sale.
On completing their merger late Friday, California Federal Bank and Glendale Federal Bank said 250 people would immediately lose their jobs and 600 more would get the ax by yearend. Most of the layoffs will affect Glendale employees, a spokeswoman said.
The job cuts, which will not affect employees at the new CalFed's 359 branches, are designed to help the thrift meet its goal of cutting $160 million in costs in 1999. Analysts said they expect the new thrift, which has $52 billion of assets, to continue to shave expenses to make itself attractive for a sale.
"Here's a situation where a very, very high goal for CalFed is to get itself sold," said Charlotte Chamberlain, a thrift analyst at Jefferies & Co., Los Angeles. CalFed "will be more draconian" in its cost cutting than other newly merged thrifts, such as Washington Mutual Inc., she added.
"The fact that they have already let 250 people go is excellent," said Jonathan Gray, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein, New York. As an acquisition target, the new California Federal "has a great deal of cash earnings power," he added.
Mr. Gray predicted the combined thrift would earn $2.75 to $3.00 in cash per share by 2000.
First Nationwide Holdings, CalFed's parent, in February announced an agreement for a tax-free exchange of shares with Golden State Bancorp of Glendale, Calif., Glenfed's parent. The new holding company, Golden State, is operating its thrift under the CalFed name.
First Nationwide is owned by investor Ronald Perelman, who is known for buying companies and then selling them for a quick profit.
A CalFed spokeswoman declined to comment on the speculation and said none of the company's executives were available to do so.
Ms. Chamberlain said other factors, in addition to layoffs, will have an impact on CalFed's future strategy. A flattening yield curve, for example, would have an adverse effect on the combined thrift's huge mortgage portfolio, which is made up of one million loans with an aggregate principal balance of $96 billion.
CalFed's mortgage subsidiary, First Nationwide Mortgage Corp., is No. 8 mortgage loan servicer in the country. First Nationwide and Glendale originated $6 billion and $1 billion, respectively, in mortgage loans for the first six months of the year.
"There is a lot of financial leverage and a lot of interest rate risk," Mr. Gray said. For every hundred basis points up or down in interest rates, "add or subtract 50 cents per share," he added.
The layoffs, which were expected, are to eliminate overlaps in human resources, finance, accounting, loan service, legal, commercial real estate, and other departments, the spokeswoman said.
The new thrift has further cost cutting options. Staffing levels at two customer service call centers-Glendale Federal's in Glendale, Calif. and CalFed's in Sacramento-have not yet been determined.
The new company, which holds $24 billion in retail deposits and serves 1.5 million households, expects to have all of its accounts converted to one system by Nov. 16.