Popular Inc. Sees Subprime Slump in 2006

Because of the performance of its subprime mortgage operations, 2006 was not a good year for Popular Inc., according to its year-end and fourth-quarter earnings.

Mortgage loans net charge-offs as a percentage of average mortgage loans held-in-portfolio increased to 0.51% in 2006, compared to 0.42% in 2005, mainly due to higher delinquency levels experienced on the U.S. mainland, primarily in the company's subprime mortgage loan portfolio.

In terms of Popular's mortgage loan portfolio, which represents the principal category of earning assets, it declined to $11.7 billion in 2006 from $12.9 billion in 2005. The decline in mortgage loans since Dec. 31, 2005 resulted mostly from the pooling of $600 million in mortgage loans at Banco Popular de Puerto Rico into Fannie Mae mortgage-backed securities during 2006 that were sold to investors, a bulk sale of individual loans to a U.S. financial institution involving $600 million in mortgage loans and to off-balance-sheet securitization transactions performed by Popular Financial Holdings, partially offset by new loan originations.

Previously, Popular's management established a restructuring and integration plan whereby Popular Financial Holdings, the company's consumer finance and mortgage business in the U.S. mainland, will exit the wholesale subprime mortgage origination business, focus on existing profitable businesses and consolidate support functions with its sister U.S. banking entity Banco Popular North America, creating a single integrated North American financial services unit.

As a result of the plan, the company recognized during the fourth quarter of 2006 approximately $7.2 million in impairment losses of long-lived assets principally related to software and leasehold improvements and $14.2 million in goodwill impairment associated with the exited operations.

"This has not been a good year, primarily because of the performance of our nonprime mortgage operations, but we have taken action on this front," said Richard L. Carrion, CEO of Popular, in a statement. "On the other hand, we have seen good performance in our Puerto Rico operations in spite of a difficult environment." (c) 2007 Mortgage Servicing News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.mortgageservicingnews.com http://www.sourcemedia.com