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Pacific Capital to cut 300 jobs

By   /   Wednesday, March 18th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Pacific Capital to cut 300 jobs

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Pacific Capital Bancorp – parent of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and the largest banking company based in the Tri-Counties – said March 18 that it plans to slash 300 workers, about 22 percent of its full-time workforce.

The reduction will begin immediately, with 80 jobs gone in the first quarter and the rest of the cuts in place by mid-year, the company said in a press release.

The bank estimates it will take a one-time charge of $3 million to $5 million in severance costs but save $20 million in annualized savings.

Chief Executive Officer George Leis said in a statement that the cuts will take place across the firm’s business units and 48 branches, which stretch from Los Angeles County to Santa Clara County under five brand names, including First Bank of San Luis Obispo.

“Clearly, it would never be my first choice to eliminate positions,” Leis said. “However, given the length and depth of the current recession, preserving capital is critical.”

In the past year, Pacific Capital Bancorp’s shares have plunged from trading at nearly $28 to the $8 range. News of the cuts came after markets had closed March 18.

Earlier, Pacific Capital Bancorp announced a 2008 net loss of $22.8 million, or 52 cents per diluted share, compared to net income of $100.9 million, or $2.14 per diluted share, for 2007.

Contributing to the big loss was a provision for loan losses of $218.3 million because of the downturn in the economy, which also led to about $121 million in loan net charge-offs or write-downs during 2008.

During 2009, Pacific Capital Bancorp may be counting heavily on its tax refund programs, known as RAL and RT, to offset weakness in the economy and in loan demand. During 2008, it sharply increased profitability in the segment to $118 million before taxes, compared to $47.1 million in 2007.

In November, Pacific Capital Bancorp agreed to take $188 million from the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

The firm holds $7.4 billion in assets and operates under the local brand names of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, First National Bank of Central California, South Valley National Bank, San Benito Bank and First Bank of San Luis Obispo, according to its Web site.

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