Imperial Bancorp plans to sell its 24% stake in Imperial Credit Industries, a high-risk consumer lending unit, according to documents filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The sale is necessary because the federal Bank Holding Company Act does not allow banking companies to hold more than 20% of a company whose main businesses are not incidental to banking.
Imperial Credit does consumer and commercial financing, lease financing, and asset-based lending.
Imperial Bancorp, parent company of Imperial Bank, Inglewood, Calif., had hoped to move its stake in Imperial Credit into a subsidiary and spin it off to the public.
But a slide in the value of Imperial Credit shares-which came in the wake of general market turmoil this summer-foiled the plan.
The filing said Los Angeles-based Imperial will sell its nearly nine million shares of Imperial Credit. The bank also said it would try to persuade the unit's two other large shareholders to sell their positions.
Imperial Credit's book value amounts to roughly $6 per share, but the company should be able fetch twice that in a sale, said Charlotte A. Chamberlain, a banking analyst at Jefferies & Co., Los Angeles.
The sale of Imperial's stake at such a price would yield proceeds that could top $90 million. Money from the sale could be used to buy back shares of Imperial Bancorp, which have suffered along with the downturn in Imperial Credit's stock.
From a 52-week high of $33 per share, reached last February, Imperial Bancorp shares were at $16.125 in midday trading Friday.
The sale would be "very positive for the bank," Ms. Chamberlain said.
In September, $6.3 billion-asset Imperial dropped plans to spin off a consumer finance subsidiary, its small-business and entertainment groups, and its trust company.
The Imperial Credit shares would have gone on the books of the new unit had the spinoff succeeded.
"This new plan is the result of Imperial going back to the drawing board," said Joseph K. Morford, an analyst at Van Kasper & Co. in San Francisco. "They see a sale as the best way to improve returns."
Citing advice from Imperial Bancorp's legal department, a spokesman for the company declined to comment on the latest plan.
Imperial and the two other major owners hold about 60% of Imperial Credit's stock, according to an analyst who asked to remain unnamed.
The analyst argued that Imperial would gain a higher takeover premium if it persuaded the other major shareholders to sell their stakes as well.