Stress Tests: Banks Need $75B

Updated from 5:42 p.m. EDT

The stress test results rolled in after the market's close on Thursday, confirming reports that the country's 19 biggest financial institutions will need to raise $75 billion as a buffer against loan losses through the remainder of the economic downturn.

Under what regulators characterized as a "deliberately stringent test," losses at the 19 firms from 2009 to 2010 could reach $600 billion, according to the Federal Reserve. Most of those losses would come from residential real estate and other consumer loans. Those losses would represent 9.1% of the banks' loan books, a higher loan-loss ratio than the historical peak of the 1930s depression.

"The assessment announced today will help strengthen the lending capacity of banks, with greater transparency and actions to reinforce the amount of capital banks hold against the risk of future losses," Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said in a statement.

Of the banks that were tested, Bank of America ( BAC) required the biggest infusion, of $33.9 billion, followed by Wells Fargo ( WFC) with $13.7 billion; General Motors' ( GM) GMAC financing arm, with $11.5 billion; and Citigroup ( C) with $5.5 billion.

Regions Financial ( RF) will need $2.5 billion in fresh funding, according to the test results, while SunTrust ( STI) will need $2.2 billion; both Morgan Stanley ( MS) and KeyCorp ( KEY) will need $1.8 billion; Fifth Third ( FITB) will need $1.1 billion; and PNC Financial ( PNC) will need $600 million.

Just before the test results were released, Wells Fargo announced a $6 billion common stock offering and Morgan Stanley followed up with an announcement that it will raise $5 billion in stock and debt. Citi announced that it would raise $5.5 billion by converting some of the government's existing preferred stake into common equity.

Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit called the stress test "a rigorous process" that provided the firm "a clear strategy for the future."

Bank of America released a statement stressing that the government's test was based on much worse economic projections than it currently anticipates. The company said it will not need additional taxpayer support, and is currently in the process of getting out from under the government's wing by ending negotiations for government guarantees on $118 billion worth of assets.

CEO Ken Lewis said BofA is "comfortable" with its capital position and that while its plan to boost capital levels will have "a number of components, we will not need any new government money."

Wells Fargo also came out with a strong statement against the stress test results. CFO Howard Atkins called assumptions "excessively conservative."

"In effect, the Federal Reserve is asking Wells Fargo to hold a significant capital cushion above 4% for a hypothetical net revenue scenario that is remote and inconsistent with the company's strong actual results so far in 2009, strong underlying earnings momentum, and the actions already taken by Wells Fargo to reduce Wachovia's revenue risk," Atkins added.

GMAC did not specify how it would raise funds, but said methods could include a new stock offering, conversion of existing equity into common stock, or issuance of "mandatory convertible preferred shares," a new security created, which allows firms to issue preferred stock to the government without voting rights. The shares would only be converted as a last resort.

"We support the government's efforts to shore-up the banking system and expect that the additional capital raised will further strengthen GMAC and aid in achieving our strategic objectives," CEO Alvaro de Molina said in a statement.

Banks that won't require any additional funding are Goldman Sachs ( GS), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), BB&T ( BBT), Bank of New York Mellon ( BK), U.S. Bancorp ( USB), State Street ( STT), Capital One Financial ( COF), and MetLife ( MET).

Geithner said that banks not in need of additional capital will be able to start repaying government funding.

Those that need fresh funds will need to outline a plan to bolster capital ratios within one month, and implement that plan within six months. Those firms can use common stock offerings, asset sales, and conversions of other types of capital into common equity to bolster the ever-scrutinized tangible common equity ratio.

If they are unable to raise funds in the private market, the 10 banks will receive government support by conversion of preferred stakes or additional capital infusions through the Capital Assistance Program. However, that will lead to even closer scrutiny by regulators, including changes to boards of directors and executives if deemed necessary by the Treasury Department.

Geither sought to calm fears of shareholders spooked by not only dilution, but dilution into a government-controlled enterprise.

"Where Treasury does take common equity, we will seek to return the company to purely private ownership as quickly as possible," he said, adding that regulators will advise on "core governance issues and not on day-by-day operations."

Staff writer Laurie Kulikowski contributed to this report.

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