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Treasury program could aid Synovus

Synovus Financial Corp. said Monday there’s a possibility it might take part in the U.S. Treasury program that aims to help banks wipe failed housing assets off their books.

But the Columbus-based regional bankholding firm also said it is waiting to hear more details from the federal government.

“Our company is definitely interested in the potential of this program and the impact it could have on our bank in particular, the banking industry and the economy,” Synovus said in an e-mail statement from spokesman Greg Hudgison.

“We cannot be certain of our participation in the program until some of the details of the process are announced and we can assess the pricing structure of the assets being considered for sale in this public-private investment program,” the company said.

Synovus oversees $36 billion in assets through its network of banks in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The company has written off hundreds of millions of dollars in loan losses, primarily from failed residential developers and homebuilders. The slumping Atlanta and Florida housing markets have been particularly brutal for the firm.

Earlier this year, Synovus formed a subsidiary corporation called Broadway Asset Management to sequester about $500 million in bad loans.

The assets are from seven of the company’s affiliate banks. They include houses builders could not sell after running out of liquidity, as well as lots, land and loan notes secured by land.

On Monday, Hudgison confirmed that the total value of loans in BAM is still $500 million.

In a recent interview, Synovus Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Anthony said federal regulators had “blessed” the firm’s move to cluster those assets together.

“That’s probably the first place we would look,” Anthony replied when asked if BAM properties might be sold under a Treasury program. “The decision would hinge upon the price that’s available for those, and that’s yet to be determined.”

Synovus is among the nation’s banks to take part in the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program. The firm received $968 million in December from selling preferred, non-voting stock shares to the U.S. government.

The banking company posted a $582 million loss in 2008. It wrote off $364 million in non-performing assets in the fourth quarter alone.

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