FBR Exploring ‘Options’ For First NLC; Denies Liquidity Issues

Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group, Inc. (NYSE: FBR) announced late Tuesday that it will explore “strategic alternatives” for First NLC, its non-conforming mortgage origination business. While the company did not specify in its press statement which alternatives it will be considering, sources have suggested to Housing Wire that FBR is looking to sell its origination platform in light of growing liquidity problems in the subprime mortgage market. For its part, the investment bank said in a press statement that First NLC continues to have “more than sufficient liquidity” to meet all margin calls and is in compliance with all warehouse agreements, although it did not specify the degree to which the originator has been impacted by any margin call or repurchase activity and whether or not it has had to execute modifications to its credit facilities to ensure compliance. The investment bank is the fourth company looking to sell its subprime origination platform in recent weeks. Fremont General (NYSE:FMT) announced March 2 that it intends to exit the subprime lending business and has put its origination platform on the auction block, while H&R Block (NYSE:HRB) has been trying without success to rid itself of Option One for nearly a quarter. San Diego-based Accredited Home Lenders (NASDAQ:LEND) said yesterday that it is seeking additional sources of capital, and industry insiders have told HW that the company is considering a sale of its subprime platform as well. FBR acquired First NLC from Sun Capital Partners in early 2005 in a deal worth $88 million. The company originates more than $4 billion per year in nonconforming loan products, and employs more than 2,300 people nationwide. Officials at FBR were not available to comment further, and the company said in a press release it does not intend to comment on any potential actions it might consider taking with respect to First NLC. For more information, visit http://www.fbr.com. Full disclosure: The author owns no shares in any publicly-held company discussed in this news story.

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