Troubled regional lender PacWest sells $2.6 billion loans at discount


PacWest Bancorp, one of the lenders seeking to survive the U.S. regional banking crisis, said on Monday it had agreed to sell a $2.6 billion real estate construction loan portfolio at a discount in a bid to improve its balance sheet.

PacWest’s shares rose 15% on the deal, which gives the California-focused bank breathing space to cope with a flight of deposits that followed the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and other regional peers over the last two months.

PacWest has lost three-quarters of its market value since the regional banking crisis started on March 8. It lost 16.9% of its total deposit base at the outset, and has been trying to claw some of it back.

PacWest sold 74 real estate construction loans that have an outstanding balance of $2.6 billion to property firm Kennedy-Wilson Holdings for $2.4 billion — a $200 million discount, a regulatory filing showed on Monday.

Kennedy-Wilson said it will also assume $2.7 billion in potential funding obligations associated with the loans, and will take over, subject to clearances secured by PacWest, an additional six real estate construction loans with a balance of about $363 million.

PacWest will have to pay Kennedy-Wilson a fee equal to 0.15% of the total commitments of the loans, according to the filing.

The loans carry floating interest rates that currently average 8.4%, substantially higher than PacWest’s fixed-rate loan portfolio, which was put together when interest rates were much lower. The floating rates allowed PacWest to sell the real estate construction loans at a small discount that reflected a decline in the value of the underlying real estate assets, rather than the rise in interest rates.

“We believe the decline in risk-weighted assets should offset the loss (from the sale of the loans at a discount), which should result in modest improvement in regulatory capital ratios,” Wedbush analysts wrote in a note.

The transaction is expected to close in multiple tranches during the second quarter and early part of the third quarter, PacWest said.

The Los Angeles-based lender has also said it is exploring a sale of its $2.7 billion lender finance loan portfolio, which it expects to have completed by next month.

“It takes pressure off the bank from the funding side as they dispose off these loans — they won’t have to use either extensive deposits or borrowings to fund that part of the portfolio,” said Gary Tenner, managing director at D.A. Davidson & Co.

PacWest had indicated in May it was in talks with potential partners and investors about strategic options. Earlier this month, it said it had posted more collateral to the U.S. Federal Reserve to boost the bank’s liquidity.

PacWest raised $1.4 billion in March from investment firm Atlas Partners SP by borrowing against some of its assets, but that deal has not been sufficient to meet all the bank’s liquidity needs.

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