Still smarting from troubles with its defunct mortgage lending unit, Republic Bancshares of St. Petersburg, Fla., said it expects to post 2000 losses of $4.5 million to $5 million and that it has a deal to sell five more branches in its effort to return to profitability.

The $2.5 billion-asset company announced late Thursday that it would take a charge of $12.3 million in the fourth quarter, and that as a result its losses for 2000 would be 45 to 50 cents per share, against earnings of 95 cents a year earlier. Analysts predicted it would have 2000 earnings of 58 cents a share.

Republic said it is selling its five branches in Miami-Dade County, which have assets of $55.5 million, to $250 million-asset Pointe Financial Corp. in Boca Raton. William Klich, Republic’s president and chief executive officer, said Republic wants to concentrate on areas where it has a larger market share.

“Miami-Dade County is a unique market,” he said. “It’s very expensive and fast-paced, and with five offices there we do not have enough to be competitive.”

Last month Republic announced that it would sell two branches in north central Florida to $424 million-asset CNB National Bank in Lake City. Both deals are expected to close in the first half and would leave Republic with 76 branches in 17 counties.

Republic said it decided to incur the charge and sell the branches in hopes of starting fresh this year.

The fourth-quarter charge stemmed from residual interest asset losses in connection with sales of high-loan-to-value mortgage-backed securities. The bonds were issued in 1997 and 1998 under the company’s Flagship Mortgage subsidiary, which was shuttered in early 1999.

Meanwhile, Republic said it would increase its fourth-quarter loan-loss provisions to $6.3 million, from an expected $2.7 million. Its yearend loan-loss provisions more than doubled from a year earlier, to $20.7 million.

“We are cleaning up … and stepping forward on a strong foundation for 2001,” Mr. Klich said.

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