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PacWest Bank says considering ‘all options’ after its shares plunge more than 50%

<i>Mike Blake/Reuters</i><br/>A general view of Pacific Western Bank in Huntington Beach
Mike Blake/Reuters
A general view of Pacific Western Bank in Huntington Beach

By David Goldman and Mark Thompson, CNN

Another US regional lender caught up in the worst banking crisis since 2008 is looking for help.

PacWest Bank, based in California, confirmed Thursday that it is exploring “all strategic options” after its share price was cut in half in after-hours trading following a Bloomberg report that it was considering a sale.

“Exploring strategic options” is Wall Street lingo for “please help.” The last bank to announce it was exploring strategic options was First Republic Bank. That regional bank failed Monday, and JPMorgan purchased most of its assets.

“In accordance with normal practices the company and its board of directors continuously review strategic options,” PacWest said in a statement. “Recently, the company has been approached by several potential partners and investors — discussions are ongoing. The company will continue to evaluate all options to maximize shareholder value.”

Bloomberg, citing anonymous sources, reported Wednesday that the bank has been looking to sell itself, but bidders aren’t coming out of the woodwork. PacWest Bank is reportedly considering splitting up the company or, as an alternative, trying to raise capital to support itself, Bloomberg reported.

As with many other US regional banks, the value of PacWest’s loans and bond holdings has crumbled as interest rates have surged. Customers yanked their deposits in March out of fear that the bank could fail and they’d be left holding the bag. Although the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures accounts holding up to $250,000, many businesses have a lot more money in their accounts, much of which is uninsured.

That left the bank and its competitors with a potential problem: If customers kept drawing down their accounts, the bank may run out of cash to pay them. That made investors nervous: PacWest’s stock has plunged 72% this year.

PacWest appeared to have stabilized in recent weeks since the March collapses of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. PacWest reported last week that customers have stopped withdrawing their money and 73% of the bank’s deposits were insured. On Thursday, it said 75% of its deposits were insured as of May 2.

“The bank has not experienced out-of-the-ordinary deposit flows following the sale of First Republic Bank and other news,” it said in the statement. “In addition, the company recently paid down $1 billion of borrowings with our excess liquidity. Our cash and available liquidity remains solid and exceeded our uninsured deposits, representing 188%.”

When First Republic failed earlier this week, investors grew wary that another shoe could drop. PacWest stock cratered 28% on Tuesday and another 2% on Wednesday.

Other regional banks also tumbled in after-hours trading on Wednesday, including Western Alliance, which fell by nearly 30%.

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