First Republic Bank Stock Plunges as Depositors Flee

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First Republic Bank's stock plunged Tuesday after it said depositors withdrew more than $100 billion during last month’s crisis, with fears swirling that it could be the third bank to fail after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.

The San Francisco bank said late Monday that it was only able to stanch the bleeding after a group of large banks stepped in to save it by depositing $30 billion in uninsured deposits. But investors remained deeply skeptical on what path forward exists for First Republic either as an independent firm or as an acquisition target. The bank likely will have lower profits for years, and if the bank is bought, any purchase would come with an immediate loss to any buyer.

The bank says it plans to sell off unprofitable assets, including the low interest mortgages that it provided to wealthy clients. It also announced plans to lay off up to a quarter of its workforce, which totaled about 7,200 employees at the end of 2022.

“With still a large level of uncertainty in outcomes and expected losses beyond the next year, we recommend investors sell shares as the outlook appears largely unclear,” Citi analyst Arren Cyganovich said in a note to clients.

First Republic has struggled since the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in early March, as investors and depositors have grown increasingly worried that the bank may not survive as an independent entity for much longer. The bank’s stock closed down 49% at $8.10, a fraction of the price it was a year ago when it traded for roughly $170 a share.

Before the failure of Silicon Valley Bank, First Republic had a banking franchise that was the envy of most of the industry. Its clients, mostly the rich and powerful, rarely defaulted on their loans. The bank made much of its money making low-cost loans to the rich, which reportedly included Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

But its franchise became a liability when bank customers and analysts noted that the vast majority of First Republic’s deposits, like those in Silicon Valley and Signature Bank, were uninsured — that is, above the $250,000 limit set by the FDIC. If First Republic were to fail, its depositors would be at risk of not getting all their money back.

First Republic reported first-quarter results Monday that showed it had $173.5 billion in deposits before Silicon Valley Bank failed on March 9. On April 21, it had deposits of $102.7 billion, which included the $30 billion the big banks deposited. It said since late March, its deposits have been relatively stable.

The bank said its profits fell 33% in the three-month period that ended March 31 from a year earlier, and revenues were down 13%.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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