External pressure is compounding internal issues at First NBC Bank Holding in New Orleans.
The $4.8 billion-asset company, which has been grappling with financial-reporting problems and problematic energy loans for months, must now confront an investor's claim it needs to raise $300 million in capital over the next two years.
HoldCo Asset Management, a New York firm that owns $8 million in First NBC subordinated debt, made the claim in an Aug. 12 letter to Ashton Ryan Jr., the banking company's chairman, president and chief executive. HoldCo, which is run by Vik Ghei and Misha Zaitzeff, asserted that First NBC will suffer when Basel III is fully implemented in 2018.
The issue involves First NBC's large deferred-tax asset. HoldCo estimated that the DTA, which currently stands at $238 million, could swell to $436 million in two years. Basel, in general, will significantly limit the amount of deferred-tax assets that can be counted as capital.
"We see your common equity Tier 1 ratio being completely wiped out using assumptions that we think are fairly generous," HoldCo claimed in the 24-page letter.
First NBC did not respond to multiple attempts to obtain a comment. Ghei at HoldCo, which has $400 million of assets under management, declined comment.
The large deferred-tax asset is primarily associated with First NBC's investments in low-income and historic properties, which created tax credits for the bank. While First NBC can use the credits to offset its tax liability, their use is constrained by the amount of profit the company generates. Basel will essentially prevent the company from applying the unused portion of those credits to bolster its capital calculations.
Sharply worded letters from disgruntled investors are hardly a new phenomenon, but HoldCo's missive seemed more provocative than most. HoldCo also expressed concerns that an oversized DTA could scare off banks interested in buying First NBC, while noting that it has taken a short position in the company's stock.
"The market value of our short position now significantly exceeds the cost value of the subordinated debt instrument, which we still own," the firm stated, noting that it has only taken two short positions in its five-year history. "This means that on an aggregate basis, we are net short FNBC and will probably make money if your stock goes down and probably lose money if the stock goes up."
HoldCo noted in its letter that the main reason for the missive was to foster a discussion about the company's business model.
In that respect, the letter is already getting some attention.
"We find merit in the questions raised in the letter," Catherine Mealor, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, wrote Sunday in a note to clients. Still, she said, HoldCo's estimate of a $300 million capital shortfall seems "too high."
Mealor, in particular, questioned whether the DTA could actually increase to $436 million by 2018, noting that many of the tax credit entities involved have seven- to 15-year amortization periods.
HoldCo's letter is the latest challenge for First NBC associated with its tax credit operation.
The company disclosed in March that it had identified errors in its accounting for certain tax, noting that the issues would prevent it from filing its annual report on time. The company, which later disclosed that it would need to restate years of financial results, is also out of compliance with Nasdaq reporting requirements.
First NBC also has exposure to the energy sector. The company has $158 million of energy loans, making up roughly 4.5% of total loans, Mealor said in her note.
The bank has remained profitable despite the various issues, earning $28.2 million in the first half of this year, based on its second-quarter call report filed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.