Wachovia Corp. is making small strides in its effort to boost capital, agreeing to sell more than 100 vacant branches to a real estate company in a deal that could generate more than $150 million.
The $812 billion-asset Charlotte company has sold 39 branches to American Realty Capital Trust Inc. for about $53 million, a spokesman for the New York real estate company said Monday. The sales, completed over the last month but scheduled to be announced today, include branches in Florida, New Jersey, and Texas.
Wachovia has agreed to sell at least 70 more branches to American Realty over the next year, the spokesman said. That could geranate another $100 million.
Other banking companies have relied on such deals to move surplus properties, but Wachovia is making its sales at a critical time for the company. It is looking to shore up capital after rising defaults in the pick-a-payment mortgage portfolio it gained from its October 2006 purchase of Golden West Financial Corp.
Last month Robert K. Steel, Wachovia's new president and chief executive, outlined a series of moves designed to free up $5 billion of capital, including the sale of noncore assets. His company also plans to cut more than 10,000 positions, reduce its dividend for a second time this year, and shed $20 billion of loans and securities by yearend.
In recent months it has dialed back the option adjustable-rate mortgage business it largely inherited from Golden West. Wachovia has exited wholesale mortgage origination, and it no longer offers loans through outside brokers. It shut down mortgage offices in states where it lacks branches.
Last week it also reportedly agreed to sell about $40 million of land and construction loans in states such as California, Arizona, Florida, and Illinois to a joint venture led by the developer LandCap Partners.
In addition to selling empty branches, Wachovia is slowing the pace of branch openings.
A company spokeswoman said it would open 30 branches in California this year, compared with earlier plans to open 40 to 60. For next year, she said, the goal is to open 25 to 35 in California, Arizona, and Nevada, including Wachovia's first branch in downtown Los Angeles. Wachovia currently operates about 3,300 branches.