In a move to provide much-needed cash and instill confidence in MNC Financial Inc. -- the region's largest bank holding company -- some of MNC's directors have agreed to invest $200 million in the company, sources close to MNC said yesterday.
In addition, the parent firm of Maryland National Bank, American Security Bank and Equitable Bank is negotiating with J.P. Morgan & Co. for a $750 million line of credit -- money that the J.P. Morgan bank would provide MNC if the need arose, J.P. Morgan officials said yesterday.
The line of credit and the investment from MNC's directors are intended to avoid a possible cash crisis at the holding company caused by MNC's inability to borrow money in the short- and long-term markets for corporate debt. MNC will have to pay off $100 million in short-term borrowings in the coming months and another $800 million in longer-term borrowings by early next year. The company has been unable to renew those borrowings because of investors' concern about MNC's exposure to the sluggish commercial real estate market.
The liquidity problems ultimately could affect MNC's non-bank subsidiaries, which include its leasing operation, a commercial lending division and several other small units. The parent company's potential cash shortage should have no effect on its banking subsidiaries, which are suffering from the slowdown in the real estate market but have plenty of money.
Although the credit line and cash should help defuse a potentially serious crisis at the parent firm, those familiar with MNC said directors are still discussing whether to sell the non-bank subsidiaries or transfer them to MNC's banks. If the subsidiaries are transferred, they can be funded through bank deposits instead of through borrowing.
Sources said that a group of directors led by Alfred Lerner of Cleveland has agreed to give the holding company $200 million in cash in exchange for shares of MNC convertible preferred stock. Lerner was chairman of Equitable Bancorporation until its merger with MNC in January, and he owns 8.9 percent of MNC's stock.
Sources said the new stock will be issued on a private basis; generally, convertibles pay a fixed interest rate and can be exchanged for shares of common stock if certain conditions are met. Details of the J.P. Morgan line of credit should be completed by the end of the month, the sources said. Some details of the new cash infusion for MNC were reported in Thursday's Wall Street Journal. Analysts said yesterday they hope that the J.P. Morgan line of credit will help ease investors' fears over MNC's financial stability.