Bank of America ( BAC) chief Kenneth Lewis says the bank will need to take a hard look at its various businesses and consider scaling back some lines after posting a 32% drop in third-quarter earnings. "We're going to look at every single business," Lewis said during a morning conference call responding to analyst questions. He added that the bank would "see where our strengths are and where they're not and act accordingly" The Charlotte, N.C., bank saw revenue drop 12% from a year ago in the third quarter to $16.3 billion. Earnings slid to $3.7 billion, or 82 cents a share, from the year-ago $5.42 billion, or $1.18 a share, missing the Thomson Financial analyst consensus estimate by 24 cents. BofA, like many financial institutions, has been hit by a credit crunch that saw liquidity freeze up amid rising worries about credit quality. The bank saw lower income resulting in large part from a $1.33 billion decline in earnings in Global Corporate and Investment Banking. Loan loss provision expense increased by $865 million. Although the bank's officials believe that liquidity is returning to portions of the market, Chief Financial Officer Joe Price said he expected continued pain in home equity, with the expectation that losses would continue and values would decline. Lewis did not say specifically which areas the bank might cut but did note, "you can't have business where you make money for five years and give it all back in one year."
The poor earnings showing at BofA comes on the heels of a 57% drop in third-quarter net at Citigroup ( C) and a 2% rise in profit at JPMorgan ( JPM). The disparity shows that although the summer's credit crunch hit all the financial institutions, not all of them suffered equally. Responding to questions about a super structured investment vehicle that BofA is working on creating along with JPMorgan and Citi, Lewis said that the move would not be an act of charity. The banks, at the government's behest, are working to create a big fund that would buy assets from the structured investment vehicles that are struggling to roll over the commercial paper amid the continuing credit crunch. "We would do it at market rates," he commented."This is no giveaway -- we'll make money at it." The so-called Master-Liquidity Enhancement Conduit is expected to help grease the wheels in an asset-backed commercial paper market that has been jammed since the summer. BofA shares fell $1.81 to $48.22.