Bank of America Corp. announced Friday that it would sell its former financial services unit, Reconstituted Bank, to a private equity firm.
The $1.6 billion sale is the latest sign that banks are seeking to restructure troubled loans that have taken a battering as the financial crisis has battered economies around the world.
Analysts expect the sale of the lender to be finalized in the next few days, with the proceeds to go to the distressed borrowers, including those with underwater mortgages.
The Bank of Americas has been trying to reduce its exposure to the $2.4 trillion in troubled mortgage loans that the U.S. government has purchased through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
Bank of America has said it is taking a tough stance on troubled loans because it believes it can get better results by restructuring those mortgages.
Analysts said the sale would provide the bank with a better opportunity to meet its goals of making loans to distressed borrowers.
“We are committed to ensuring that the mortgage products we deliver are fully capitalized and fully insured, which is important to the overall health of our lending business,” Bank of Americans CEO Brian Moynihan said in a statement.
Analyzing the sale, analysts at Credit Suisse said that the sale makes sense.
“Constant and consistent revenue growth for the bank would enable it to maintain its investment grade status for the foreseeable future, and would likely lead to a return of around 8 percent,” Credit Suise analysts wrote.
The sale would also help Bank of American pay down debt, they added.
Bank Capital’s David Lassman said the bank’s recent $4 billion sale of its $1 billion stake in REIT Capital, another distressed lender, “is not the end of the story.”
“If you are looking for a bank that can provide a service, and the risk isn’t too great, Bank of Amerias service is the right thing to do,” Lassmann said.
The Troubled Assets Relief Program has been used to buy $700 billion in assets from the Federal Reserve to bail out the financial system during the financial downturn.