Just a year after it recapitalized itself by raising $45 million, Unionfed Financial Corp. is again seeking an infusion of cash.

Last week, Brea, Calif.-based Unionfed said it lost $26.5 million in its fiscal year ended June 30 and had rehired Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, the New York-based brokerage firm that helped it regain its footing by raising funds last year.

The $848 million-asset thrift has been slammed by the downturn in the Southern California economy, which sunk its risk-based capital below the 8% minimum threshold in the June quarter to 6.99%. The thrift meets its Tier 1 risk-based ratio requirement, but falls below the 4% minimum core capital requirement.

Unionfed hasn't been formally ordered to raise its capital by the Office of Thrift Supervision, but it allowed that it was subject to prompt corrective action provisions of the 1991 banking law that allows regulators to set tough deadlines for raising capital ratios.

"The results have been disappointing," said Tom Theurkauf, an industry analyst at Keefe Bruyette in New York who was bullish on Unionfed a year ago. "The [Southern California] market is still a difficult one."

Mr. Theurkauf, the only analyst known to follow the company closely, declined to comment further because the investment banking side of his firm is advising Unionfed on its capital issues.

David S. Engelman, Unionfed's chief executive, said in a written statement that the company will "explore all alternatives to achieve capital Compliance."

He and other company officials declined to comment until the thrift's recapitalization plan is filed with the thrift agency. The filing will take place by Sept. 15, said Steve Austin, chief financial officer.

The fiscal 1994 loss brings Unionfed's total loss for the last two years to $58.6 million. In June 1993, it faced a possible government takeover when its core capital ratio fell to 1.4% and its risk-based ratio fell to 3.1%.

Last September, buoyed by a $70 million reduction in nonperforming assets and indications that the California economy had bottomed out, the thrift sold $45 million of common stock that warded off a takeover.

Longstanding Problems

Union Federal Bank, Unionfed's subsidiary, had one of the first and most successful recapitalizations that took place at troubled Southern California institutions last year.

The thrift had longstanding capital problems dating back to the 1989 thrift reform law.

However, in a scenario shared by several other California thrifts that survived the late 1980s' regulatory backlash, the economic downturn in the West created new problems for Union Federal.

While community banks have reported a stabilizing of earnings and problem assets in recent quarters -- with some banks even managing to get rid of sizable chunks of repossessed real estate -- community thrifts in Southern California continue to take beatings from different sectors of the real estate market.

The reason for the Unionfed's losses in the June quarter was from heavier-than-expected losses on some commercial real estate assets - assets that had been worked out once before.

By December 1993, Unionfed's nonperformers had fallen to $48 million, down from $191 million in 1991.

The continued weakness in the economy caused new problems, however. In March, non-performers increased for the first time since 1991, increasing again in the June quarter to $61 million.

Nonperforming assets equaled 6.79% of total assets on June 30, a larger percentage than a year earlier. Union Federal At a Glance Headquarters: Brea, Calif.Assets: $848 millionBranches: 14CEO: David EngelmanROA: -2.9%ROE: -76%Core Capital Ratio: 3.8%

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