* Third straight rise in number of banks missing payments
* First miss for 23 banks
CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 16 (Reuters) - More than 90 U.S. banks and thrifts missed making a May 17 payment to the U.S. government under its main bank bailout program, signaling a rising number of lenders are struggling to meet their obligations.
The statistics, compiled by SNL Financial LC from U.S. Treasury data, showed 91 banks and thrifts skipped the May dividend payment under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. It was the first missed payment for 23 of the banks; for the others, it was at least their second miss.
The number of banks missing their TARP payments rose for the third straight quarter. In February, 74 banks deferred their payments; 55 deferred last November.
SNL Financial's analysis found 20 banks have missed four or more payments since the program began in 2008, while eight banks have missed five payments.
Under the TARP program, the U.S. Treasury invested in preferred shares issued banks looking for funds. The banks were to make regular dividend payments to the Treasury, and have the right to repurchase the shares at some point in the future.
While many of the largest U.S. banks easily repaid billions in TARP aid, more than 600 smaller banks still hold $130 billion from the program, created at the height of the financial crisis.
In some cases, small banks are renegotiating the repayment terms.
Midwest Banc Holdings Inc MBHI.O, for example, agreed to swap $84.8 million in preferred shares issued under the TARP program in 2008 for $15.5 million in common shares. That would have meant an 80 percent loss for the government -- and the U.S. taxpayer -- on the initial investment. [ID:nN03108978] But the swap was contingent on the bank raising more private capital, which it failed to do. Regulators seized the bank in May.
The next quarterly TARP payments to the U.S. Treasury are due by Aug. 16. (Reporting by Joe Rauch; editing by John Wallace)