SunTrust 4Q income declines as mortgage repurchase demands rise
SunTrust Bank (STI) reported a 16% decline in earnings for the fourth quarter on lower revenue and a higher mortgage repurchase provision. The Atlanta-based bank earned $155 million in the fourth quarter, or 28 cents a share. That was down from $185 million a year ago, but an improvement in per share earnings, which were 23 cents in the year-ago period. The bank met analyst expectations of 27 cents per share, according to Yahoo Finance. Revenue dipped 10% year-over-year and 8% from the previous quarter to $2.05 billion. SunTrust's mortgage repurchase reserves rose to $320 million from $282 million in the third quarter. The bank received $636 million in repurchase demands, up sharply from $440 million a quarter earlier and $233 million in the fourth quarter 2010. The bank warned last month that repurchases would increase significantly in the fourth quarter. The repurchase demands are linked mostly to loans made at the height of the housing boom from 2006 to 2008. The company holds $120 billion in unpaid balances from the period, and about $21.2 billion have gone 120 days or more past due. Of those unpaid legacy mortgages, SunTrust has received repurchase demands on $4.4 billion, with $3.9 billion of those resolved. SunTrust said two factors largely drive repurchase requests — the life span of a delinquent mortgage and its loan-to-value ratio. Demands will likely remain elevated, the bank said, but should not spike again. The company swung to a $62 million loss in its mortgage production-related business from a $41 million profit a quarter earlier. That was predominantly driven by a $98 million increase in the mortgage repurchase provision, due to higher agency-related repurchase requests and an increase in the mortgage repurchase reserve. SunTrust reported 2011 full-year earnings of $728 million, or $1.09 a share, up from $189 million, or a loss of 18 cents a share in 2010. The improvement in annual earnings was due to higher net interest income, lower provision for credit losses, and the repayment of TARP. For 2011, total revenue, was $8.6 billion, a decline from $8.69 billion in 2010. Excluding net securities gains, revenue was $8.48 billion, a modest decline of $25 million compared with 2010. The decrease mortgage-related income and service charges on deposit accounts, was largely offset by increased net interest income. SunTrust said it anticipates an accrual for mortgage servicing related to an attorneys general settlement, and an estimate will come as discussions progress over the next few weeks. U.S. Bancorp (USB) added a $130 million expense in the fourth quarter for any regulatory costs, though the Minneapolis-based bank said Wednesday that does not represent a final settlement amount. Write to Andrew Scoggin. Follow him on Twitter @ascoggin.