Washington Mutual to take writedown, cut jobs

Yet another shoe that didn’t fall. No business interruption, no change to aggregate demand, a relatively few layoffs over time, and this is a major California lender where housing is hurting perhaps the most of any state.

Washington Mutual to Take Writedown, Cut Jobs (Update1)

2007-12-10 17:00 (New York)

(Adds writedown in the first paragraph and downgrade in the third paragraph.)
By Elizabeth Hester

Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) — Washington Mutual Inc., the largest U.S. savings and loan, will write down the value of its home lending unit by $1.6 billion in the fourth quarter and cut 3,150 jobs as losses in the mortgage market increase.

Washington Mutual also will cut its quarterly dividend to 15 cents a share from 56 cents and close 190 of 336 home loan centers, the Seattle-based bank said in a statement today. The company said provisions for loan losses in the quarter will be $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion, about twice as much as it previously expected.

Fitch Ratings downgraded the firm’s rating to “A-” from “A,” citing “worsening asset quality,” and “extremely challenging conditions in the U.S. residential mortgage market.” Washington Mutual said it plans to raise $2.5 billion to shore up its capital by selling convertible stock.

Industry-wide mortgage originations will probably shrink 40 percent in 2008 to $1.5 trillion, down from about $2.4 trillion this year, Washington Mutual said in the statement. The firm plans to cease lending through its subprime mortgage channel.

The company said it would cut 2,600 jobs in its home loans unit, or about 22 percent of that division. The remaining job cuts will come from corporate and support staff, the statement said.

–Editor: Otis Bilodeau.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Elizabeth Hester in New York at +1-212-617-3549 or ehester@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Otis Bilodeau at +1-212-617-3921 or obilodeau@bloomberg.net.