Wachovia exec acknowledges bad timing on Golden West purchase

CHARLOTTE -- Wachovia's general bank president on Wednesday highlighted the positives of last year's acquisition of Golden West Financial but acknowledged "our timing was not good" in light of a severe housing downturn.

"We continue to feel that this acquisition will prove itself very positive when we get to the other side of the cycle," Ben Jenkins told an audience at the Merrill Lynch banking conference in New York.

In his presentation, Jenkins noted that Golden West's branches are helping the Charlotte bank reach a goal of adding 1 million net new checking accounts this year. He also said the bank expects to gain market share in the mortgage business.

Wachovia has previously said that it expects to set aside more money than expected in the fourth quarter to protect against problem loans in a weakening housing market. Jenkins said the bank is closely watching the Golden West portfolio and monitoring unusual behavior such as borrowers with good credit scores eschewing their mortgage payments because their home values have fallen.

The biggest troubles spots are regions of California known as the "Central Valley" and the "Inland Empire."

The presentation was devoid of news of big losses related to subprime mortgage investments such as Bank of America's announcement Tuesday that it expects a $3 billion writedown in the fourth quarter. Wachovia last week said it plans a writedown of about $1.1 billion in the period.

Summing up the grim mood lately in the banking industry, one attendee prefaced a question with this: "Thank you for not saying anything that required a press release."