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Wells Fargo reports loss of $2.83 billion

Financial newsWells Fargo said Thursday that it swung to a $2.83 billion loss in the fourth quarter as it took significant charges to reduce its exposure to the risky assets of Wachovia Corp. and built up its reserves to cover future losses.

During the quarter, Wells Fargo recorded a write-down of $37.2 billion related to high-risk loans in Wachovia's portfolio. This reduces the need for future loan loss provisions, Wells Fargo said.

While analysts and investors generally saw Wells Fargo's acquisition of Charlotte, N.C.-based Wachovia as a good long-term move for the bank, there had been some concern that Wachovia's troubled loan portfolio would cause more problems than Wells had originally anticipated.

Wells Fargo had previously estimated $60 billion of cumulative credit losses for the life of Wachovia's loan portfolio, and Atkins said Wednesday that estimate has not changed. Following the $37.2 billion of losses set aside in the fourth quarter on the portfolio, the bank has roughly $22.8 billion of write-downs remaining, which it expects to record over a period of three years.

For the final three months of the year, Wells Fargo reported a net loss of $2.83 billion, or 79 cents per share, after paying preferred dividends. This compares with earnings of $1.36 billion, or 41 cents per share, a year earlier. The loss from Wachovia's operations totaled $11.17 billion for the quarter. This compares with a third-quarter loss of $23.89 billion.

The results included a write-down of $473 million on Wells Fargo's securities portfolio and $413 million of write-downs on other loans. The bank also took $294 million, or 5 cents per share, of losses related to the Bernard Madoff fraud, and a $74 million charge related to merger and integration costs.

During the quarter, Wells Fargo built up its credit reserves by $5.6 billion to cover future loan losses. This includes $3.9 billion to conform Wachovia's reserve build practices to its own.
The provision for credit losses was $8.44 billion. This is more than three times the provision of $2.61 billion recorded in the prior-year quarter.
Net interest income, or income generated from loans and deposits, grew 23 percent to $6.72 billion from $5.49 billion. Noninterest income from fees and other charges declined 34 percent to $3.1 billion from $4.71 billion.

The bank extended $22 billion in new loans and originated $50 billion in new residential mortgages during the fourth quarter. And core deposits increased 31 percent over the third quarter. Wells also said both consumer and commercial depositors returned to Wachovia during the fourth quarter following the announcement of the acquisition.
Though Wachovia had been struggling for some time, the rush to a deal was sparked by a run on deposits in late September following the failure of Seattle-based thrift Washington Mutual Inc.

New York-based Citigroup Inc. agreed to step in and buy Wachovia's banking operations for $2.1 billion with the help of the FDIC. But days later, Wells Fargo stepped in with a higher bid - one that didn't hinge on any government support. The government tried to mediate a deal in which Wells Fargo and Citigroup would split Wachovia's assets, but the parties failed to reach an agreement and Citigroup abandoned its bid.

Originally, Wells Fargo's purchase of Wachovia was valued at $15.1 billion, but declined in value to $11.8 billion in late December as the price of Wells Fargo's shares dropped.
The combination creates one of the largest U.S. banks, with more than $1.23 trillion in assets and nearly $800 million in deposits, and operations in 39 states and Washington, D.C.

Source: Financial News
Date: 28.01.2009 [218]

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