Scrambling to build capital, Superior Bank, a privately held Chicago-area thrift battered by subprime lending losses, has sold almost one-fifth of its assets.

The $400 million loan sale came on Tuesday, just a day after Fitch Inc., a debt rating agency headquartered in New York and London, reduced its rating on Superior's long-term debt from BBB to BB-minus - below investment grade. Fitch analyst Christopher D. Wolfe said regulatory concerns and Superior's deteriorating operating performance prompted the downgrading. Superior chairman Stephen Mann refused to give any details about the loan sale, but he said it means "the bank's capital position gets even stronger." Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data for Sept. 30 showed the $2.1 billion-asset Superior as well-capitalized, with a 13.5% equity ratio.

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