Southwest Bancorp Inc. in Stillwater, Okla., has sold off roughly $300 million of problem loans in a move its chief executive said is a major step toward achieving its goal of sustained profitability.

Roughly $170 million of the loans are nonperforming and the rest are considered problem loans, the $2.6 billion-asset company said in announcing the bulk sale late Wednesday. Southwest, a two-bank holding company, said the sale to SW Loan Portfolio Holdings LP, will produce a pre-tax loss of $101 million, which it will record in the fourth quarter.

In a news release, President and Chief Executive Rick Green said that the company's board opted to go through with the bulk sale after concluding that workouts would take too long and be too costly.

"These sales immediately and substantially reduce our nonperforming assets and potential problem loans," Green said. "We believe this action is a major step toward achieving our goals of reducing problem assets, returning to sustained profitability, resuming dividends, and producing reliable and attractive returns for our shareholders."

With roughly 10% of its loans no longer performing, Southwest lost more than $13 million through the first three quarters of 2011, compared to a profit of $9.5 million in the same period in 2010. The bulk sale reduced its level of nonperfroming loans by roughly 83%, based on Sept. 30 data, and slashed its level of potential problem loans by nearly half.

Southwest's shares soared on news of the sale. In early trading Thursday, the stock was up roughly 30%, to $6.03.

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