First California Financial Group Inc. postponed the highly dilutive stock sale it unveiled last week, citing current market conditions, including its current trading price.

The holding company of First California Bank has seen its shares drop 31% since it unveiled plans Dec. 8 to sell at least 7.5 million shares to increase capital levels, for possible acquisitions and other purposes. It has about 11.9 million shares outstanding.

The stock closed Tuesday at $2.57 and didn't trade premarket; it is down 53% this year.

First California on Wednesday didn't indicate when or if the stock sale would be held.

A number of lenders have been taking advantage of the strong market to sell shares to increase capital levels and fund acquisitions of weaker players in the sector. First California Bank, which specializes in serving small and midsize businesses, has 17 branches in southern California.

First California said last month, as it posted its third consecutive quarterly loss, that the company has been building up liquidity, addressing problem credits, increasing loan-loss reserves and "promptly" taking write-downs on bad loans. The company also has been cutting costs, including a 10% work-force reduction and a branch closing.

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