OceanFirst in N.J. gives early glimpse into coronavirus exposure

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By Ken McCarthy and Paul Davis

OceanFirst Financial in Toms River, N.J., has about $1.6 billion in exposure to commercial borrowers “that may be sensitive” to the coronavirus outbreak.

The $10.2 billion-asset company made the disclosure in a Tuesday regulatory filing and a conference call.

OceanFirst, which recently acquired Two River Bancorp in Tinton Falls, N.J., and Country Bank in New York, said about $1.1 billion in loans are tied to industries that might experience "direct impacts from the pandemic." They include $385 million to hotels and food services firms, $143 million to retailers and $123 million to manufacturers.

The company said another $485 million of loans are tied to investors that could be indirectly impacted by the pandemic. About half of those loans involve shopping centers, while 30% are associated with retail. The rest of the loans are tied to restaurants and warehousing.

OceanFirst has taken a number of steps to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak, CEO Christopher Maher says.

OceanFirst said, as of March 23, it had received forbearance requests from 195 borrowers tied to $220 million in loans. It had also received emergency credit requests from 47 commercial borrowers seeking a total of $7 million in loans.

The company said earlier this month that it would defer certain loan payments for up to 90 days for the most seriously impacted categories of business borrowers.

"We expect the numbers to increase in the coming weeks, but they are very manageable in comparison to our total balance sheet," Christopher Maher, OceanFirst’s chairman, president and CEO, said during a conference call to discuss the company’s outlook.

"We are a long way from fully understanding the impact of the pandemic on our economy and have very little information regarding fiscal stimulus," he added. “We just don't have the visibility about how quickly people are going to get back."

OceanFirst said commercial clients have drawn down $11 million from existing lines of credit. Maher said that 104 business clients had temporarily shut down to preserve cash.

Some of the forbearance requests will become losses since "some of those loans are going to be troubled and not be able to pay us back,” Maher said.

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