The recession and bad real estate loans continue to be a toxic combination for Synovus, but Georgia’s second-largest bank pared its losses in the fourth quarter of 2009 and could return to profitability by the end of this year, executives said Thursday.
The Columbus-based bank reported a fourth-quarter loss of $264.1 million, narrowly beating Wall Street estimates. That compares to losses of $637.5 million in the fourth quarter a year earlier and $453.8 million in the third quarter of 2009.
Synovus also announced a major restructuring that will do away with the 30 different bank charters the company operates across five Southern states.
The company, which formed as a collection of largely independent community banks, said it planned to consolidate into a single charter by the middle of the year, though the 30 banks will continue to use their brand names. In metro Atlanta, Synovus operates Bank of North Georgia and Bank of Coweta.
Richard Anthony, Synovus’s chairman and CEO, said the change will simplify regulatory oversight and make it easier to manage capital and risk.
The change, which requires regulatory approval, “will not impact our relationship-based business model,” Anthony said in a news release. “Our local bankers will continue to make local decisions that are best for our customers and communities.”
Synovus has aggressively written off bad loans in recent quarters as it works to cleanse its balance sheet. Bank officials expect that to pay off later this year as losses finally ease.
In the fourth quarter, Synovus charged off $361.9 million in bad loans, down from $496.8 M in the third quarter.
Delinquent loan volume also is declining. The bank reported $262.4 million in past-due loans in the fourth quarter, compared to $362.5 million a year earlier and $365.5 million in the third quarter of 2009.
In a conference call with analysts, Anthony said Synovus began to consolidate some banking functions five or six years ago, with a decision to pursue a single charter coming in the past few months.
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