Even banks can be down and out in Beverly Hills.
The $1.5 billion-asset First Bank of Beverly Hills — which changed its strategy in recent years to bet heavily on condominium lending — is the latest California institution facing a capital crisis.
It must find a buyer within 30 days, or raise at least $70 million of capital within 60 days, under a cease-and-desist order it received Feb. 13 from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the California Department of Financial Institutions.
The bank's parent company, Beverly Hills Bancorp Inc. in Calabasas, disclosed the order in a securities filing last week. It is negotiating with a potential merger partner, but whether a deal will result is uncertain, the filing said.
Observers said it would be hard for the bank to attract a buyer or fresh capital.
Brett Rabatin, an analyst at Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc., said buyers have been shunning banks that are heavy on construction loans and lack core deposits — as is the case with First Bank of Beverly Hills — even after they fail and regulators are willing to assist with a transaction.
"Banks are not even interested in that kind of situation on an assisted basis," he said.
Condo loans are considered poison these days, Mr. Rabatin added. "Even if you're a smart condo lender, this environment has changed so rapidly and so meaningfully that doing things you thought would survive the 100-year storm is not enough."
Larry B. Faigin, the chief executive officer of both Beverly Hills Bancorp and First Bank of Beverly Hills, did not return a call seeking comment.
Last quarter the bank fell below the regulatory definition of "well capitalized," with a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 3.37%, according to its call report. The order requires the bank to boost that ratio to at least 8%, well above the usual 5% minimum.
Karen Dorway, the president of BauerFinancial Inc. in Coral Gables, Fla., said her company, which rates the strength of banks nationwide from zero to five stars, lowered First Bank of Beverly Hills' rating from three stars to zero partway through the fourth quarter.
The bank lost $83.5 million last quarter, because it had $45.5 million of chargeoffs, primarily construction loans, the call report showed.
"And even after charging off all of those loans, they still have a fairly high level of delinquent loans," Ms. Dorway said. Loans 90 days or more past due plus nonaccruals totaled $58 million.
Ms. Dorway also said 89% of the bank's deposits were brokered at yearend, versus an already high 79% a quarter earlier.
First Bank of Beverly Hills' emphasis on condo lending was controversial from the start. Joseph W. Kiley 3rd resigned as its president and CEO in July 2006, citing his concern over the new strategy. "You need a lot of expertise with these riskier loans, because when the real estate market gets soft, the first segment that gets hit is the condo market," he said. (Mr. Faigin, Beverly Hills Bancorp's chairman at the time, assumed Mr. Kiley's titles.)
Since July, eight California financial institutions have failed, including several big construction lenders. Another condo lender, the $8.4 billion-asset Corus Bankshares Inc. of Chicago, warned last week that regulators had imposed a deadline for it to raise capital or face a forced sale.
Beverly Hills Bancorp's stock was trading for only a few pennies a share on Monday.