January 18, 2008 in Business

WaMu reports $1.87 billion loss

The Spokesman-Review
 

Washington Mutual Inc., the country’s biggest savings and loan, reported Thursday a $1.87 billion loss in the fourth quarter, hurt by the sinking value of its mortgage portfolio.

The quarterly loss was $2.19 per share, compared with a profit of $1.06 billion, or $1.10 per share in the same period last year.

Those earnings included a write-down of $1.6 billion that WaMu had previously disclosed as the value of its home loan portfolio withered.

Revenue, including net interest income, or what the bank made on loans minus what was paid out on deposits, and non-interest income, or the cash WaMu made from mortgage loan service fees and other fees and charges, totaled $3.41 billion, lower than Wall Street’s expectation of $3.51 billion.

WaMu’s home loan volume sank 97 percent to $19.09 billion compared with the fourth quarter of 2006.

WaMu also socked away $1.53 billion to cover future loan losses, within the range of $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion it forecast in December.

The thrift’s percentage of non-performing assets to total assets rose to 2.2 percent in the quarter, from just under 1 percent a year ago.

The Seattle-based bank said in December it planned to sell $3 billion in stock to fortify its balance sheet. The bank cut its dividend by 73 percent and announced it would lay off more than 3,000 workers and shutter its subprime lending business.

For 2007, WaMu posted a loss of $67 million, or 12 cents per share, on $11.11 billion in revenue, compared with a profit of $3.56 billion, or $3.64 per share, on $13.68 billion in revenue in 2006.

Analysts were looking for a profit of 59 cents per share on $13.78 billion in sales.

Shares of WaMu fell 93 cents, nearly 7 percent, to $12.46 in after-hours electronic trading, after closing at $12.53.

Proposal funds nurse training

Gov. Chris Gregoire met with health care and union representatives Thursday to outline her supplemental budget proposal to invest $3 million in training for health care workers who want to advance their careers but can’t take time off work.

“The need is clear, and the solution is too,” Gregoire said in a statement. “If we can help our experienced health care workers advance their careers and become registered nurses, they win and the state wins.”

The governor met with representatives of the Washington State Hospital Association, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Swedish Medical Center to talk about the state’s severe shortage of registered nurses.

Gregoire said a pilot project with Shoreline Community College north of Seattle worked well and should be expanded statewide through the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges.

Helping nurse assistants and surgical technicians become registered nurses benefits hospitals and their employees, said Diane Sosne, president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. Employees already know hospital systems and procedures, enjoy the work and are less likely to leave than new registered nurses entering the work force, she said.

Gregoire said the proposal is part of her emphasis on patient safety this legislative session.

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