ATLANTA ( TheStreet) -- Georgia has the unfortunate distinction of leading the U.S. with 21 bank failures this year and last. And many other banks in the state are suffering from very high levels of bad loans.

Most of the failed Georgia institutions made outsized bets during the real estate boom on residential and commercial construction projects in the Atlanta area. Since the quality of commercial real estate loans is declining sharply as the later stages of the banking crisis unfold, there are dozens of banks and thrifts in trouble.

Strongest Georgia Banks and Thrifts

Based on March 31 financial reports, 24 of Georgia's 322 banks and thrifts were rated B-plus (good) or above, down from 33 the previous quarter.

Georgia Banks and S&Ls Rated B+ or Higher
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The ratings encompass a large number of data, placing the greatest weight on capital strength, credit quality and earnings stability. To be considered well-capitalized, most banks, and savings and loans need to maintain a total risk-based capital ratio of at least 10%.

Largest Georgia Institutions

The following table includes capital, earnings and asset quality for the 10 largest Georgia banks and thrifts.

10 Largest Georgia Banks and S&Ls
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The highest-rated bank or thrift among Georgia's 10 largest institutions was BB&T Financial of Columbus, a relatively small subsidiary of BB&T Corp. ( BBT).

BB&T Financial focuses on credit card lending. Its financial strength rating has been C-plus (fair) for the past three quarters.

Wells Fargo ( WFC) also has a credit card subsidiary among the 10 largest Georgia banks, Wachovia Card Services of Atlanta. This institution was assigned a financial rating of C despite its increasing credit card charge-offs, because it's strongly capitalized. SunTrust Bank of Atlanta, Georgia's largest financial institution and the main subsidiary of SunTrust Banks Inc. ( STI), was downgraded to D-minus from D-plus the previous quarter because of a $783 million net loss and declining capital levels. The rating didn't reflect the $2.3 billion in common equity raised by the holding company in June or the holding company's narrower second-quarter loss.

Three institutions among the 10 largest in the state are held by Synovus Financial ( SNV). These include Columbus Bank & Trust of Columbus, AFB&T of Athens and Bank of North Georgia of Alpharetta, which has the highest nonperforming-asset ratio of the group.

Weakest Georgia Banks

Seven of the last 10 Georgia banks to fail were included in TheStreet.com's recent list of Undercapitalized Banks and Thrifts. Seven remaining Georgia banks are on the list.

TheStreet.com's interactive Bank Failure Map contains a summary of all failed banks and thrifts for 2008 and 2009. Security Bank Corp. ( SBKC) of Macon had six Georgia bank subsidiaries, including three on the undercapitalized banks list. All six of the holding company's bank subsidiaries failed Friday.

A whopping 39 of Georgia's banks and thrifts had nonperforming-asset ratios above 10% as of March 31, all of which were assigned ratings of D-minus or below by TheStreet.com Ratings.

Free Bank and S&L Ratings

TheStreet.com Ratings issues independent and very conservative financial-strength ratings on the nation's 8,300 banks, and savings and loans. These are available at no charge on the Bank & Thrift Ratings Screener.
Philip W. van Doorn joined TheStreet.com Ratings in February 2007. He is the senior analyst responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. He also comments on industry and regulatory trends. Mr. van Doorn has fifteen years experience, having served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Florida, and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Long Island University.

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