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M&A Activity Maintains

Recent mergers, acquisitions & corporate activity

August 7, 2006


photo of Coco Salazar

The latest mortgage mergers, acquisitions and corporate activity include the prospective sale of a New Jersey-based subprime mortgage banker.

On Wednesday, residential mortgage-backed securities player Annaly Mortgage Management Inc. announced it changed its name to Annaly Capital Management Inc.

"We believe our new name better reflects our business," Annaly said. "We manage investors' capital through funds and investment products that are distributed here and around the world."

In Minneapolis, U.S. Bancorp said its board authorized the repurchase of up to 150 million shares of its outstanding common stock, which replaces the current share repurchase program. The stock may be repurchased through December 2008 in the open market or in privately negotiated transactions.

The new program, "combined with our common stock dividend, is an important component of our plan to continue the commitment to return at least 80 percent of our earnings to our shareholders," the parent of U.S. Bank Home Mortgage said.

Wells Fargo Bank N.A. received an upgrade to AA+ by Standard & Poor's, making it the highest S&P credit-rated bank in the nation, according to an announcement.

S&P also raised the long-term credit ratings of Wells Fargo & Co.'s senior debt to AA, , making it the highest credit-rated bank holding company by the agency. The lender was commended for the "consistency of its core profitability, leading market positions in several businesses, strong capital measures, conservative risk management, its stable net interest margin, and a balanced business model that has generated consistently strong operating results," the announcement said.

The San Francisco-based banking behemoth was reportedly also commended for its "strong retail banking franchise as well-positioned and well-managed to face the competitive marketplace without sacrificing price or credit standards."

Wells tied with Countrywide as the largest residential mortgage originator in America during the second quarter.

PrivateBancorp Inc. will swallow Piedmont Bancshares Inc. in a $46.6 million stock-and-cash transaction expected to close next quarter, according to a press release Thursday.

The acquisition of Piedmont reportedly allows PrivateBancorp an "excellent opportunity" to expand in Atlanta, where Piedmont Bank of Georgia is headquartered.

The self-proclaimed largest privately-owned mortgage banker/broker in the nation, Allied Home Mortgage Capital Corp., got bigger with a new office in Wheaton, Ill.

The branch reportedly is the first the Texas-based lender has in that city and the 33rd it has opened this year.

Clear Choice Financial Inc. reported it expanded its board of directors to five positions from two on July 18 and that two days later it appointed one of the new members, Chad Mooney, as the new chief executive.

Prior to his new position, Mooney was a self-employed advisor and consultant for the Tempe, Ariz.-based company and his resume includes work with Wachovia Securities.

"This is a very dynamic company with enormous opportunity to participate in, and lead, the subprime lending and related businesses in the multi-billion dollar financial services sector," Mooney said in an announcement. "With Clear Choice Financial having completed the acquisitions of Bay Capital and Allstate Home Loans, we now have the platform to grow our business to meet the demand of the over $1 Trillion worth of loans coming due over the next 18 months. Our strategy moving forward will include growing [Clear Choice] through additional acquisitions and synergistic partnerships."

Shearson Home Loans said it executed an agreement to acquire Irvine, Calif.-based Allstate Funding in a $5 million cash-and-stock deal. Allstate is currently 85-percent owned by Shearson and will continue to do business under its current name.

The combined companies will top annual production of $1 billion through Shearson's $807 million in 2005 and Allstate $440 million, have a strong regional banking presence in the West and employ over 450, Shearson said.

"Together we will greatly expand our mortgage banking profit center by adding additional warehouse banking capacity -- which in turn will give us more than enough room to double our revenue over the next six months," Allstate President Greg Shanberg said in the statement.

Meanwhile, Cleveland-based KeyCorp announced its considering selling its nonprime retail mortgage-lending unit Champion Mortgage.

"With KeyCorp's renewed focus on community banking and strengthening our client relationships within our 13-state footprint, Champion no longer fits with our longer-term strategic priorities," said Key Chairman and CEO Henry L. Meyer III in the statement. "Given these factors, our best strategic option is to explore the sale of the company."

Key acquired Champion in 1997. The Parsippany, N.J.-based lender', which had a $2.5 billion loan portfolio at the end of June, provides mortgage financing and home equity loans in 26 states, according to the announcement.

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

e-mail: [email protected]

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