Community First Bankshares said it would take a $10 million charge against fourth-quarter earnings because of a writedown of subprime auto and mortgage loans.

The charge, which had been expected, amounts to about 14 cents per share after taxes.

Community First, with $6 billion of assets, is expected to earn 36 cents per share on an operating basis in the fourth quarter, according to First Call Corp., Boston.

The company is already taking a $5.5 million charge related to a cost- cutting program. That charge is expected to result in another 7-cent loss in earnings.

Community First sold the operating assets of two subprime lending units in July. It retained $120 million in loans. Community First acquired the two companies in 1996 as part of its merger with Mountain Parks Financial Corp.

"This charge will prepare us to fully resolve our involvement with subprime lending, which was a costly departure from our banking business," said Community First chief executive officer Donald R. Mengedoth.

"The only suprise, is the size is a little bigger than expected," said analyst Joseph Roberto of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "But they wrote this down pretty aggressively and it should put the issue behind them."

-Brett Chase

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