South Financial sees stock tumble

As expected, South Financial Group’s stock price took a beating Wednesday, the first day after it announced an $85.8 million loss for the first three months of 2010.

TSFG dropped 17 cents, or nearly 19 percent, to 74 cents a share, in heavy trading.

The Greenville-based company has not only lost more than $1.3 billion over the past two-plus years, but South Financial conceded Tuesday that it expects to soon enter into formal agreements with regulators that will require its capital levels to exceed thresholds for “well-capitalized” banking institutions.

South Financial officials said that as of March 31, the company’s capital ratios exceeded the well-capitalized regulatory thresholds but those ratios will be challenged as the year progresses, according to a report in the Greenville News.

“Given our expectation of additional losses during 2010, we will need to raise additional capital during the year,” South Financial Chief Executive Lynn Harton said. “We are expending our best efforts to do so, but market conditions, along with our performance, continue to make access to capital a challenge.”

The parent of Carolina First Bank has taken a huge hit from its exposure to bad construction loans and is aggressively looking to curb its non-performing assets and return to profitability, according to Reuters.

Stock in TSFG dropped almost immediately Wednesday, falling to as low as 71 cents in early trading. Although it had closed at 91 cents a share the previous day, it never traded above 80 cents Wednesday. 

More than 21 million shares of company stock were traded Wednesday, double that of the previous day and four times the amount swapped Monday.

Mark Twain and Life on the Misssissippi

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain’s death on this date, below is an excerpt from Life on the Mississippi, a memoir by Twain detailing his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before and after the War Between the States.

Twain, who would go on to be one of America’s greatest writers, took a voyage to New Orleans down the Mississippi while in his early 20s.

The vessel’s pilot, Horace Bixby, inspired Twain to pursue a career as a steamboat pilot; it was a demanding but lucrative occupation with wages set at $250 per month, roughly equivalent to more than $72,000 a year today.

A steamboat pilot needed a vast knowledge of the ever-changing river to be able to stop at the hundreds of ports and wood-lots along the river banks. Twain meticulously studied 2,000 miles of the Mississippi for more than two years before he received his steamboat pilot license in 1859.

In the following passage, a conversation between Twain and Bixby, can be found the words from which Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, took his pen name.

‘My boy, you’ve got to know the SHAPE of the river perfectly. It is all there is left to steer by on a very dark night. Everything else is blotted out and gone. But mind you, it hasn’t the same shape in the night that it has in the day-time.’

‘How on earth am I ever going to learn it, then?’

‘How do you follow a hall at home in the dark. Because you know the shape of it. You can’t see it.’

‘Do you mean to say that I’ve got to know all the million trifling variations of shape in the banks of this interminable river as well as I know the shape of the front hall at home?’

‘On my honor, you’ve got to know them BETTER than any man ever did know the shapes of the halls in his own house.’

‘I wish I was dead!’

Continue reading

TSFG: Agreements with regulators expected

After losing more than $1.3 billion over the past two-plus years, The South Financial Group conceded Tuesday that it expects to soon enter formal agreements with regulators that will require its capital levels to exceed thresholds for “well-capitalized” banking institutions.

South Financial officials said that as of March 31, the company’s capital ratios exceeded the well-capitalized regulatory thresholds but those ratios will be challenged as the year progresses, according to a report in the Greenville News.

“Given our expectation of additional losses during 2010, we will need to raise additional capital during the year,” South Financial Chief Executive Lynn Harton said. “We are expending our best efforts to do so, but market conditions, along with our performance, continue to make access to capital a challenge.”

Greenville-based South Financial reported a first quarter net loss available to shareholders of $85.8 million, compared with $90.8 million a year ago.

The parent of Carolina First Bank has taken a huge hit from its exposure to bad construction loans and is aggressively looking to curb its non-performing assets and return to profitability, according to Reuters.

Stock in TSFG was down sharply Wednesday morning. It closed at 91 cents Tuesday, but was off as much as 20 cents in the first hour of trading after the market opened Wednesday.

New evidence questions Wallenberg’s fate

Evidence has surfaced that appears to disprove long-maintained claims by the Soviet Union that Swedish humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg died on July 17, 1947.

The website Searching for Raoul Wallenberg reported recently that an ongoing exchange with the officials at the archives of the Federal Security Services of the Russian Federation state that “with great likelihood” Wallenberg became “Prisoner No. 7″ in Moscow’s dreaded Lubyanka prison in 1947.

In addition, prison interrogation registers from that year show that “Prisoner No. 7″ was interrogated on July 23, 1947, according to the Russian archivists.

Never before have Russian officials stated the possibility of Wallenberg’s survival past July 17, 1947, so explicitly, the website reported.

Wallenberg’s disappearances is one of the great mysteries of World War II. Working as a Swedish diplomat in Budapest, Hungary, during World War II, Wallenberg was able to rescue Jews from the Holocaust.

Between July and December 1944, he issued protective passports and housed Jews, saving tens of thousands of Jewish lives.

On Jan. 17, 1945, he was arrested in Budapest by the Soviets after they took control of the city from the Germans, and he was reported to have died in March. However, the exact circumstances of his death have long been in dispute. The Soviets never explained why they detained him.

In 1957, the Soviets claimed that Wallenberg had actually died of a heart attack in 1947 at the age of 35. There had been reports, however, from prisoners in the same facility, that he was seen alive long past 1947. In 1991, Vyacheslav Nikonov was assigned by the Russian government to find out the truth; he concluded that Wallenberg did indeed die in 1947, executed while a prisoner at Lubyanka.

Searching for Raoul Wallenberg detailed other information recently released by Russian archivists that was not previously known:

The new information concerns a previously unknown “Prisoner No. 7″ who was questioned on July 23, 1947, for more than 16 hours. The interrogation was conducted by S. Kartashov, head of the 4th Department, MGB’s (State Security Ministry) Third Main Directorate (military counterintelligence). This was the unit which investigated Raoul Wallenberg in 1947. Over those 16 hours, Kartashov also interrogated Wallenberg’s driver, Vilmos Langfelder and Langfelder’s presumed cellmate, Sandor Katona. In the letter, Russian officials refer to a notation in the Lubyanka interrogation registry entered behind the names of all three men which reads “proshel,” “came through” (the prison’s checking post.) The archivists write that regarding Prisoner No. 7, “with high probability the note . . . could apply only to Raoul Wallenberg.” We are waiting to see the full interrogation list from July 23, 1947, which has so far only been available in strongly censored form. It is becoming clearer, however, why that documentation may have been withheld all these years.

What happened to Katona, Langfelder and “Prisoner No. 7″ after July 23, 1947, is unclear, but none of the men were ever released, the website reported, adding:

The Russian side has stated that its archives contain no further information about Sandor Katona. Katona, a Hungarian citizen, is known to have been arrested in October 1944 in Bulgaria, where he worked as driver at the Hungarian Legation. The only information available about the further fate of Vilmos Langfelder is a Soviet government communication to Hungary stating that he supposedly died on March 2, 1948. The Soviet or Russian authorities have not presented any documentary evidence for his death. Taking into consideration that at the time, on the Poliburo’s order, the KGB released false dates of death of the executed prisoners or prisoners who died during their imprisonment, the stated date of Langfelder’s death is highly questionable.

(Hat tip: The Blogland of Earl Capps)