Maybe the management at Wachovia
In the wake of announcing its intent to acquire auto-lending specialist Westcorp
AmNet Mortgage does business as American Mortgage Network, a wholesale mortgage bank that serves about 7,000 mortgage brokers. With about $1.9 billion in warehouse facilities (in other words, available financing), AmNet writes mortgages primarily for prime customers and then sells off those mortgages.
Though AmNet originally started out as a REIT that held residential mortgages for investment, the company decided to switch to mortgage banking in 2001. Two years later, in 2003, the company abandoned its REIT status and does not presently pay a dividend.
For Wachovia, this is another way to not only expand into California (where AmNet does about one-quarter of its business) but also to compensate for losing out on MBNA, which is being acquired by rival Bank of America
Should investors be worried about Wachovia shelling out some cash for a mortgage banking business amidst all the talk of a housing bubble? Well, the CEO of Wachovia doesn't feel there is a bubble. But then again, he makes his money off of a healthy mortgage market. Nevertheless, Wachovia generally shies away from riskier mortgage lending (like investment properties) and is pretty well diversified across many markets.
With that in mind, I'd probably focus on the long-term strategic advantages of building a stronger national mortgage business and a deeper foothold in California, rather than worrying about buying at or near the top of an alleged bubble. After all, Wachovia didn't get to be this big by being chronically stupid. I think they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).