By HOW ARD KAPILOFF
As expected, California Federal Bank on Monday reported a net loss of $326.3 million for the first quarter, due to a $280 million charge to expedite the sale of assets. The loss compares to a $10.5 million net gain posted by the bank in the same period last year.
The charge will cover the sale of $1 billion of nonperforming and performing assets scheduled to be completed in the second quarter.
On top of that writedown, the bank set aside a provision for loan losses at $43.9 million for about $1 million of losses from new nonperforming loans. The bank also took another $20 million charge for losses that resulted from the January earthquake in Southern California.
Edward G. Harshfield, chief executive of the Los Angelesbased thrift, said that assuming the bulk sale is successful, Calfed's level of nonperforming assets will decline on a pro forma basis from 4.87% of total assets this quarter to about 1.98% of total assets next quarter.
The timing of the bulk sale of the assets is a source of contention between analysts and Mr. Harshfield. Last year the thrift was losing about $40 million a quarter, eating up its equity. Cal Fed's core risk-based capital ratio teetered on 4.0%. Had it dropped that low, the capital ratio would have triggered regulatory sanctions.
The thrift quickly raised $367.5 million in capital, increasing the core risk-based capital ratio to its current position of 4.6%.
Analysts complain that Mr. Harshfield hurt shareholders by raising too much capital in too short a time.
"It was expensive for shareholders," said Gary Gordon, an analyst at PaineWebber. "I'm not sure I would have felt I had to do it all today."
But Mr. Harshfield dismissed the analysts' complaints. "I don't know of any analyst whoever ran a bank," he said. "I don't know of any analyst who's been totally accurate in the last six months since I've been here."
Assuming the completion of the remaining bulk sales, the bank's allowance for loan losses will increase on a pro-forma basis to about 160%.
The bank also recorded provisions on its foreclosed real estate of $18.9 million, up 29% from last year's first quarter.
Calfed's general and administrative expenses, excluding federal deposit insurance premiums, declined to $68.2 million from $69.2 million in the first quarter of last year.