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Quick Hits: Who Wants WaMu?


Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

Washington Mutual (WM) has talked to several private equity firms about a possible takeover, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Private equity firms reviewing a possible deal include the Carlyle Group and Blackstone Group (BX). The firms might team up with Gerald J. Ford, a Texas billionaire and bank investor. Ford made money on the sale of Golden State Bancorp, a California thrift, to Citigroup (C) for about $5.8 billion in 2002.Minyanville's Why Wall Street Will Never Be the Same

However, it's not clear how a private equity deal would work because federal rules limit ownership of banks and thrifts by nonbank companies.

Citing "people familiar with the thrift," The Journal says WaMu is considering a capital infusion, sale and a government-assisted transaction. The bank has about $300 billion in assets and about 2,200 branches.

Washington Mutual is also pursuing a sale to other banks. However, Spain's Banco Santander already withdrew and Toronto-Dominion Bank of Canada (TD) has been cool to the idea. JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC) and Citigroup appear reluctant to take on Washington Mutual's loans.

On Wednesday, Standard & Poor's cut its rating of Washington Mutual's debt "due to the increased likelihood that a potential sale of the company may not involve the whole company, which includes the risk of default for holding company creditors."

Washington Mutual has named Alan H. Fishman CEO, replacing Kerry Killinger. Killinger became WaMu's CEO in 1990 and built the Seattle-based thrift into one of the nation's largest banks.

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