Wells Fargo Beats Citi for Wachovia Prize

The battle between Wells Fargo and Citi for Wachovia is over and Wells is the winner. Citi walked away citing concerns over Wachovia's loan portfolio. Wells gets to greatly expand its banking franchise but also inherits billions in bad loans.

The battle between Wells Fargo and Citi for Wachovia is over and Wells is the winner.  Citi walked away citing concerns over Wachovia's loan portfolio.  Wells gets to greatly expand its banking franchise but also inherits billions in bad loans.

For customers of Wachovia, the transition to Wells Fargo should be like any regular bank acquisition.  Wachovia is offering some relatively high rates for a large bank including their 3.5% APY High Performance Money Market account and a 1 year CD that ranges anywhere from 4.10% APY to 4.30% APY depending on your state of residence.  Both the money market account rate and the 1 year cd account rate are competitive. 

As we saw with Bank of America's purchase of Countrywide, and Chase's purchase of WaMu, these competitive rates generally don't last long.  Look for Wells to lower them in the next couple of months, if not sooner.

Was this a good deal for Wells?  In the plus column Wells gains control of $448 billion in deposits in 21 states for the low price of $12 billion.  On the minus column it inherits Wachovia's $498 billion loan portfolio, which includes about $122 billion of option adjustable-rate mortgages.  These option adjustable-rate-mortgages have been defaulting at high levels and analysts estimate as many as $40 billion could go bad.  The number could climb higher if the economy continues to deteriorate.

I'd have to assume Wells has had a chance to take a look at Wachovia's loan portfolio and feels comfortable with the risk they are taking.  But if the economy continues to deteriorate they could be on the hook for more than they originally estimated.  Overall though, I think Wells got a pretty good deal and now becomes the largest bank by branches in the United States.

Sam Cass
Sam Cass: Sam Cass, MBA, JD, University of Texas at Austin. Always a fan of Leonardo Da Vinci.

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