By Scott Miller
Published May 6, 2010
Carolina First bank entered a consent order with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last week that sets time frames during which the Greenville-based bank must improve its capital position or risk being taken over by federal regulators.
The bank’s parent company, The South Financial Group of Greenville, informed shareholders of the order this morning in a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. South Financial expected the order and had previously notified investors that it likely would enter such an agreement this year.
“It wasn’t a surprise,” CFO James Gordon said. “Nothing in the order is surprising. It’s a formalization of the activities that we’re already doing, whether it’s pursuing capital or working on troubled assets.”
The FDIC consent order requires that the bank improve its leverage ratio and total risk-based capital ratios to 8% and 12%, respectively, within 120 days. Currently, those ratios stand at 6.88% and 10.45%, respectively.
The order also requires the bank to take several efforts to improve liquidity and rid its books of bad loans gradually over the next two years. If requirements are not met, Carolina First could be placed in federal receivership. The company entered into a similar agreement last week with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
Gordon wouldn’t disclose the amount of capital South Financial needs to raise. At its annual meeting May 18, South Financial will ask shareholders to authorize an additional 1 billion shares of common stock that could be sold this year.
The independent research firm Morningstar recently estimated that South Financial needs to raise $250 million by the end of the year and predicted the company is unlikely to do so.
“A poor operator in the boom times, The South Financial Group is burdened with too many problem loans to make it through this cycle without additional common equity capital,” Morningstar said. “We believe the company’s capital shortfall will reach $250 million by the end of the year. In our opinion, the chances that South Financial can find a way to raise that much capital, plus some sort of cushion, is highly unlikely. Consequently, we believe the FDIC will be taking over the bank before the year is out.”
Gordon said Morningstar’s $250 million estimate is “the beginning of a low range.”
Since the beginning of 2008, South Financial has reported nine straight quarterly losses, totaling nearly $1.39 billion.
The bank is one of several S.C. institutions facing heightened oversight by federal regulators. Palmetto Bancshares Inc. of Greenville previously said it expects to enter an agreement with the FDIC sometime this year. Easley-based CommunitySouth Financial Corp. entered into a consent order with the FDIC in February. Late last year, Tidelands Bancshares Inc. in Mount Pleasant entered into an informal memorandum of understanding with the FDIC.
Beach First National Bank of Myrtle Beach became the first S.C.-based bank in a decade to fail when it was taken over by the FDIC in April. The bank had entered into a consent order with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in November.
Spartanburg-based First National Bancshares Inc. has operated under a similar agreement with the federal comptroller’s office for more than a year.