PacWest Bancorp’s plan to sell $2.6 bln real estate loans calms investors

A general view of Pacific Western Bank in Huntington BeachA general view of Pacific Western Bank in Huntington Beach, California, U.S., March 22, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Blake/

May 23 (Reuters) – PacWest Bancorp's (PACW.O) shares climbed 13% in premarket trading on Tuesday, extending gains from the previous session after the bank's plan to sell $2.6 billion worth of its loan portfolio to build capital fueled optimism among investors.

Earlier this month, the bank had said it was exploring strategic asset sales to sharpen focus on its core business segments as the regional banking sector grapples with its biggest crisis since 2008.

Brokerage firm D.A. Davidson & Co raised its price target on PacWest to $8 from $3, saying the deal would help the bank build its common equity tier 1 (CET1) capital – a core measure of a lender's capital.

"While the strategy (to divest non-core assets) was put in place in early 2023, recent events have increased the import of asset sales as it relates to removing funding pressure from the balance sheet and building CET1 capital," the brokerage wrote in a note to clients.

Shares of PacWest were up 13% at $7.73 in premarket trading on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Los Angeles-based bank's shares surged nearly 20% on its announcement to sell 74 real estate construction loans with an outstanding balance of $2.6 billion to property firm Kennedy-Wilson Holdings Inc (KW.N), at a discount of nearly $200 million.

Shares of Western Alliance Bancorp (WAL.N), Zions Bancorp (ZION.O) and Fifth Third Bancorp were also up nearly 1% each before the bell.

The KBW Regional Banking Index (.KRX), however, is still down nearly 4.6% since First Republic Bank became the third U.S. lender to collapse earlier this month.

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