- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

CLEVELAND (AP) — Regional bank National City Corp. said yesterday that it is slashing its dividend by half and shutting down its wholesale mortgage division, eliminating 900 jobs, as a result of weakened housing and credit markets.

The news sent National City shares down 5.3 percent, or 87 cents, to close at $15.59 yesterday. The stock had hit a new 52-week low of $15.45 earlier in the day. The shares have been as high as $38.94 in the past year.

National City also said it plans to raise new capital during the first quarter and has hired Goldman Sachs. as its capital adviser.

The job cuts announced yesterday bring to 3,400 the number of jobs eliminated in recent months as National City restricted mortgage originations to focus on prime-rate borrowers with solid credit histories.

Despite leaving the wholesale lending business, National City will continue to originate loans through its retail banking offices.

National City has been hit hard in recent months because of rising delinquencies and defaults among mortgages and a severely declining housing market. It had increased its dividend at least once every year since 1993.

“We fully recognize that the dividend is an important element of return for shareholders, and we did not take the decision to reduce it lightly,” said Peter Raskind, National City’s chairman and chief executive.

The action was needed to help National City remain competitive, he said.

The dividend was reduced to 21 cents per share from 41 cents per share, payable Feb. 1 to shareholders of record as of Jan. 14.

Cleveland-based National City operates 1,400 bank branches in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and some other markets.

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