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Regions to Unload Conforming Wholesale Ops

Regions to Unload Conforming Wholesale OpsRecent merger and acquisition activity

March 7, 2005

By COCO SALAZAR

This week’s mortgage mergers and acquisitions include some bigger players.

After spending over $215 million during the past five years to build up RBC Mortgage, Royal Bank of Canada may soon sell the unit, Bloomberg reported.

A transaction could fetch around $200 million to $300 million, the publication said, and possible suitors reportedly include Fifth Third Bancorp and National City Mortgage. RBC Mortgage’s servicing portfolio at the end of 2004 was $7.04 billion, according to the publication, and it is believed that the portfolio will not have much trouble selling.

The Toronto-based bank’s decision appears to be based on a plunge in earnings from the unit, Bloomberg said.

The Federal Reserve Board announced it has approved Synovus Financial Corp. to acquire the voting shares of Cohutta Banking Company of Tennessee.

The board reviewed all facts of records prior to approving Synovus’ proposal, including one public comment opposing the proposal which said 2003 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data showed its subsidiary Synovus Mortgage Corp. “engaged in disparate treatment of African Americans in home mortgage lending” in three markets in Alabama and Georgia. The board, however, found the data was limited and that no evidence of discriminatory lending was present in the examinations of its compliance with fair lending and consumer protection laws.

Chattanooga-based Cohutta is in formation and has not begun operations, the board said in the announcement, but its plan indicated the bank intends to lend to small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as engage in mortgage lending. Synovus will operate it as a separate subsidiary bank.

The acquisition must be consummated within three months of the Feb. 23 order for approval, the Fed said.

In San Francisco, Sutter Holding Company Inc. recently announced that it integrated the operations of its two mortgage banking subsidiaries, Easton Mortgage Corp. and Progressive Lending LLC.

Holding company Castle Financial Corp. will have a savings bank under its arm this summer in the Birmingham, Ala., area, according to The Birmingham News.

The bank is a natural extension of Castle Mortgage Co. and will offer loan programs not available through the mortgage banker, the publication said.

Castle Financial reportedly plans to raise $5 million to $7 million in capital for the bank through a private stock sale.

First Horizon Home Loans, Irving, Texas, acquired Greenwich Home Mortgage, according to an announcement Tuesday.

First Horizon, whose parent reported annual originations of $30.5 billion, said in the announcement that Greenwich “will be a tremendous asset in the New Jersey market.” The Cedar Knolls, N.J.-based lender has funded over $4 billion in residential home loans in the state since 1994, the announcement said.

Regions Financial Corporation announced Friday that the conforming wholesale operations of subsidiary Regions Mortgage will be assumed by M&T Mortgage. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Regions, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., says its core strategies are to grow its banking franchise and cross-sell mortgage customers, and the wholesale business did not fit into this framework.

Buffalo, N.Y.-based M&T will pick up 13 branches located in 12 states.

The Regions transaction excludes Regions Mortgage’s primary origination and servicing business; the nonconforming wholesale arm EquiFirst; the conforming correspondent operations; and the nonconforming correspondent and wholesale operations.


Coco Salazar is an assistant editor and staff writer for MortgageDaily.com.email: s3celeste@aol.com

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