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Another bank teeters on failure’s brink

Officials with the holding company for BankUnited said they expect to lose at least $327 million in the current quarter and desperately need to raise cash to survive.

Financial conditions are so poor at BankUnited that officials were unable to submit a fiscal year-end report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Continuing adverse market conditions and the complexity of accounting and disclosure issues has increased the need for additional review and analysis of our business including, without limitation, regulatory issues, liquidity and capital,” officials with BankUnited Financial Corp. wrote the SEC on Dec. 16.

Officials with the bank’s holding company said they are working to raise capital and are under regulatory order to do so.

BankUnited officials in their statement to the SEC said negotiations are underway with a fund to raise capital, If those negotiations are unsuccessful “there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern,” bank officials wrote.

Like many other banks in Florida, BankUnited owes its financial condition to overaggressive lending in the state’s booming real estate market, which hit its peak around 2006.

Forty-three percent of BankUnited’s residential loans were made to borrowers who merely had to state what their income was, according to the bank’s quarterly filing with the SEC in October.

The practice is referred to in the industry as no-documentation or “no-doc” loans.

For another 9 percent of the bank’s residential loans, there was no income or asset verification, stated or otherwise, according to the filing.

As of March, BankUnited’s non-performing loans totaled $682 million, compared to $208 million in September of 2007. BankUnited, based in Coral Gables, is the largest Florida-headquartered bank and had $14 billion in assets as of June.

Shares of BankUnited, founded in 1984, trade on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol BKUNA. In the past year, the stock has gone from $8 to 24 cents a share.

BankUnited has a branch in Bradenton and two in Sarasota, according to its Web site. The bank has more than 80 branches in 13 Florida counties, its site states.

Brian Neill, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 2120.

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