New York Community Bancorp eyes former IndyMac: sources

NEW YORK Thu Mar 7, 2013 1:21pm EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - OneWest Bank, which emerged from the wreckage of failed lender IndyMac, has held informal discussions with New York Community Bancorp (NYCB.N) about a possible sale, three sources told Reuters this week.

OneWest's owners, which include funds managed by billionaire investors John Paulson and George Soros, have been exploring an initial public offering, but could opt to sell if they felt they could get a good price, according to the sources, who declined to be named because they are not allowed to speak to the media.

Pasadena, California-based OneWest has held talks with a handful of banks to gauge buyout interest, the sources said, but New York Community Bancorp was the only ongoing suitor they identified.

Spokesmen for OneWest, Paulson & Co, Soros Fund Management and New York Community Bancorp declined to comment.

In his year-end letter to investors, reviewed by Reuters, Paulson estimated that the upside for OneWest is in the range of 20 to 80 percent "depending on future growth and the type of monetization of the position be it a sale or an IPO."

In March 2009, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) sold some $20 billion of IndyMac's assets and $6.4 billion in customer deposits to OneWest, a new bank formed by Paulson, Soros and other investors, for about $13.9 billion. Former Goldman Sachs (GS.N) partner Steven T. Mnuchin is OneWest's chairman.

Today, OneWest has 73 retail branches and total assets of $25 billion, according to the bank's website. New York Community Bancorp had assets of $44.1 billion as of December 31. It owns two bank subsidiaries - New York Community Bank, a thrift, with 240 branches in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Florida and Arizona; and New York Commercial Bank, with 35 branches in New York.

The bank's retained earnings were $2.3 billion as of December 31, according to a filing with the FDIC.

While New York Community Bancorp has had discussions with OneWest about a possible sale, it is concerned about the quality of OneWest's mortgages, said one of the sources.

New York Community Bancorp, which has a book value of $5.7 billion compared to OneWest's $4 billion, has not historically wanted to get into the business of mortgage servicing, the source said.

However, the bank's chief executive officer Joseph Ficalora has been vocal about his desire to make acquisitions recently.

"We have the balance sheet and the intellectual capacity to make large deals work for us," Ficalora told Reuters last year.

(Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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