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Wells Fargo says accounting change increases loss

A charge of $328 million resulting from 'credit events' pushes the bank's fourth-quarter loss to $2.73 billion.

February 13, 2009|Tom Petruno

Wells Fargo & Co. on Thursday said its fourth-quarter loss was bigger than previously reported because of a change in how it accounts for the value of certain securities it holds.

The San Francisco bank said it recorded a noncash, pretax charge of $328 million in the quarter, boosting its reported net loss to $2.73 billion, or 84 cents a share, from $2.55 billion, or 79 cents.

Wells said it took an "other-than-temporary impairment" charge against certain so-called perpetual preferred securities in its portfolio. The charge was triggered by "credit events" that occurred after Wells announced its results Jan. 28, the bank said.

That could mean that the issuer of the preferred securities had its credit rating downgraded. Wells didn't provide additional details.

The charge merely reflects a change in how Wells accounts for the securities on its books; the drop in the value of the securities had been previously recorded as "unrealized."

Still, the stock took a hit in after-hours trading, dropping to $16.25 following the announcement. Wells' shares had fallen as low as $15.27 during regular trading, then rebounded with the rest of the market to close at $16.80, off 70 cents.

The stock has tumbled 43% year to date, reflecting some investors' concerns that Wells will need to raise more capital to bolster its finances against rising loan losses.

The company has insisted that its balance sheet remains strong.

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tom.petruno@latimes.com

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