Lehman: WaMu Faces $30 Billion in Credit Losses

(Reuters) – Washington Mutual Inc (WM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) may set aside as much as $30 billion for credit losses through 2011, according to Lehman Brothers Inc analyst Bruce Harting, who increased his forecast for losses this year at the largest U.S. savings and loan.

Harting also wrote that the Seattle-based thrift may need to widen its loss forecast of $12 billion to $19 billion tied to single-family residential home loans for the next three to four years.

The $30 billion figure also includes projected losses for multi-family mortgages, commercial loans and credit card loans, Harting said. It compares with the $27 billion of losses that UBS AG analyst Eric Wasserstrom on June 9 said the thrift might face.

Harting slashed his price target on the stock to $10 from $27.25, but maintained his “equal weight” rating.

Washington Mutual shares, which fell as much as 6 percent to a 52-week low of $5.58, recovered their early losses and were up 5 cents at $6.01 in late morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Risks continue to grow for WaMu, as the thrift is known, and other U.S. mortgage lenders as home prices fall at unprecedented rates, Harting said. Many analysts believe the decline will not slow or end until well into 2009.

Harting now expects WaMu to post a per-share loss of $3.91 in 2008, compared with his prior forecast for a loss of $3.16, as it sets aside $15 billion for loan losses and charge-offs total $7.8 billion.

Though Harting expects WaMu in 2009 to set aside another $8 billion and charge off $10 billion, he said it could break even in the second half of the year, and be profitable in 2010.

“If Washington Mutual were able to space out their embedded credit costs over the next several years, revenue of about $15 billion per year would more than cover the credit charges,” the analyst wrote.

Through Monday, WaMu shares had fallen more than 86 percent from their 52-week high of $44.04, set last June 28.

Shareholders are scheduled to vote later Tuesday on matters related to a dilutive $7 billion capital infusion from TPG Capital TPG.UL and other investors, which WaMu announced in April.

(Reporting by Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay in Bangalore; Editing by Himani Sarkar)