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O.C. bank gets a small portion of bailout pot

October 29, 2008|E. Scott Reckard | Reckard is a Times staff writer.

Proving size is no obstacle when the government wants to stimulate lending, a one-branch bank in Orange County's Little Saigon has obtained a $1.2-million investment from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Saigon National Bank will use the capital for small-business lending, much of it commercial real estate loans, bank President John J. Kennedy said Tuesday.

The bank's largely Vietnamese American clientele includes such businesses as an Asian food distributor, an aerospace subcontractor and the operator of a senior center.

The government is investing $250 billion in healthy financial institutions to encourage them to lend to other banks, businesses and consumers.

The amount invested varies, depending on a bank's size and the riskiness of its lending. The largest institutions, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., received $25 billion, while City National Bank of Beverly Hills received $395 million.

Saigon National was eligible for $400,000 to $1.2 million.

Kennedy, a veteran bank manager who worked with Vietnamese American investors to open Saigon National three years ago, said the bank applied for Treasury funds on Oct. 20, the first day possible for smaller banks, and received approval on Friday, also the earliest day possible.

Saigon National, one of two Vietnamese American banks based in Westminster, opened in November 2005 after raising $14 million in start-up funds.

Though it has yet to turn a profit, it had a strong $9.8 million in equity capital remaining as of Sept. 30 after building the loans on its books up to $44 million. Kennedy said he expected the bank to soon be operating in the black.


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