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Mortgage mergers, acquisitions and corporate activity

March 7, 2006


photo of Coco Salazar

A major expansion east by a West Coast mortgage banker tops the latest list of mergers, acquisitions and corporate activity in real estate finance.

But first, General Electric recently announced it commenced a secondary public offering of approximately 71 million shares, at $32.75 each, of the Class A common stock of Genworth Financial Inc. Concurrently with the closing of the offering, Genworth also will repurchase 15 million shares of its Class B common stock directly from GE for $479 million.

Upon completion of these transactions, GE will not own any shares of Genworth's stock, the announcement said.

Wells Fargo recently said it formed a joint venture with Dominion Homes. The yet-to-be-named, new company will operate as a subsidiary of Wells and allow Dominion to focus on its primary business of building and selling homes.

Dominion Homes Financial Services currently reviews applications and pre-qualifies buyers, but does not underwrite, approve or fund mortgages, but under the new venture it will provide all of these services, according to the announcement.

"We are pleased to be able to have such a prestigious partner to handle our customers' mortgage financing. At times, it's confusing to our customers when we serve as both a builder and a loan originator," said William G. Cornely, chief financial officer for Dominion Homes. "Our customers will experience a new level of mortgage products and services, and benefit from the full range of competitively priced mortgage products and services offered by a major player in the industry. Dominion Homes can focus on its core business: building and selling high quality homes."

In Irvine, Calif., New Century Financial Corp. said Thursday it boosted its quarterly dividend by 5 cents to a $1.75 per share for the first quarter of 2006. The total reflected the fifth consecutive quarterly increase since the company elected to become a real estate investment trust.

In what seems as an effort to differentiate itself from the previously-mentioned mortgage lender, Dunn, N.C.-based New Century Bank recently announced it formed a separate mortgage division named NC Bank Mortgage. The change will reportedly enable the company to "market mortgages more openly."

"We recently were made aware that there is a mortgage company with a name similar to ours," said John Q. Shaw, New Century chief executive and president, in the announcement. "In order to avoid any confusion, and because the mortgage area of our bank is important to us and to our customers, we created a division of the bank to handle our mortgage lending function and gave it its own name."

In Columbia, Md., Fieldstone Mortgage Co. recently changed the name of nine of its East Coast retail branch offices, according to a press release.

The Broad Street Mortgage Co. offices, which reportedly offer a full range of conforming and nonconforming products, now operate under the Fieldstone name.

Meanwhile, PHH Corp. said it will miss the March 16 deadline for filing its 2005 annual report on Form 10-K. The New Jersey-based company was unable to provide an expected date for the filing and additionally delayed its earnings release and conference call originally scheduled for March 10.

PHH noted that before it began operating as an independent, publicly-traded company pursuant to a spin off from Cendant Corp., it underwent an internal reorganization that "required significant accounting adjustments" and "certain allocations were made that are now the subject of additional review by PHH and its independent auditors as part of the on-going audit of its 2005 financial statements."

The difficulty in PHH completing the Form 10-K in a timely manner are primarily related to the documentation and analysis of certain spin-off entries, including the consolidation of PHH Home Loans LLC, a mortgage joint venture between Cendant and PHH Mortgage, according to the announcement.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., which bough 60 percent of General Motors Corp. commercial mortgage unit in August, may increase its stake in the company, according to Bloomberg News.

While mergers may not always be seen as a positive answer for shareholders and company executives, the outcome may not always be negative.

Central Pacific Mortgage announced it acquired Ivanhoe Financial Inc.'s retail branch offices, the wholesale production platform and current operations center. Central began operating the company as Ivanhoe Mortgage, effective March 1.

"In the past, Central Pacific Mortgage's primary focus has been on the West Coast," said Central President and CEO John Courson in the written statement. Orlando, Fla.-based "Ivanhoe has a great footprint on the East Coast and will allow us to increase our presence there."

The acquisition of Ivanhoe's mortgage production operations will substantially increase Central's presence in the East and Southeast and increase Central Pacific Mortgage's current business by 50 percent, as growth strategy involve new retail office openings and introduction of Alt-A, subprime, reverse mortgages amongst other products, to the Ivanhoe production network.

Another Central Pacific, Central Pacific Financial Corp., which in September 2004 merged with CB Bancshares Inc., has grown to be a $5.2 billion company, despite being thwarted for about a year by executives and shareholders of former rival CB and subsidiary City Bank, according to the Pacific Business News.

Contrary to analysts' expectations at the beginning of 2005, the merged company "had a surprisingly good year where it counts most -- the bottom line," according to the paper. At the end of 2005, the company's stock price of about $36 a share was about 56 percent above the price since the merger.

While in 2005 it was expected rising interest rates and the cost of rapid growth through acquisitions would begin to erode margins and cut into earnings, Central hit a flat spot only once, when in the fourth quarter, earnings of 63 cents per share missed estimates by 2 cents. This, an analyst believes was mainly due to expenses from buying Hawaii Home-Loans, a mortgage company whose name has since changed to Central Pacific HomeLoans Inc.

Coco Salazar is an assistant editor and staff writer for MortgageDaily.com.

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