Sunday, April 15, 2007

NetBank Revisited

On the morning of September 20, 2006, I posted here that I was about to begin the process of withdrawing my money from NetBank and close my account with them. In that post, Sayonara NetBank, I referred to this process as "evacuating my money." There and in subsequent posts on PFStock, I cited deteriorating financial conditions at NetBank as one of my prime reasons for closing out my account. Even then, I conceded that NetBank was not likely to be forced into bankruptcy, but in the event that they did declare bankruptcy, it would be a hassle for depositors to get their funds back from the FDIC.

Let's take a look back six months (almost seven months now) at NetBank (Nasdaq: NTBK). On September 20th, the stock closed at $6.10. Today, NTBK trades at a mere $1.74 (a 71% decline). And, NTBK reached an all-time low of $1.48 this past week. This decline is not surprising considering NetBank's deteriorating financials. From NetBank's previous press releases and other information available at their website, we can clearly see a series of quarterly losses over the past year. And early last year, NetBank stopped paying its shareholder dividend saying that they needed "to protect the company's capital base and tangible book value from further erosion."

Then on October 3rd, NetBank announced that it would be replacing its CEO. Even before this event, I had speculated that something fishy was going on at NetBank. A worst-case scenario could be that NetBank customers would need to recover their funds from the FDIC if NetBank becomes insolvent. However, I noted that while this is certainly possible, it is not the most likely case. Nevertheless, I asserted that NetBank could no longer remain competitive with other banks in its market space.

According to a more recent NTBK press release dated February 21, 2007, NetBank recorded a net loss of $202 million or $4.36 per share for 2006. This loss of $4.36 per share over the 12-month period is absolutely staggering when you consider that the entire company is only valued at $1.74 a share. Unfortunately, what is really lacking from NetBank's report is any type of good news. To further exacerbate the already existing problems, NTBK has received a notice from the Nasdaq Stock Market that the company's common stock is subject to delisting. NetBank has been delinquent in its regulatory filings because its former independent auditor resigned as of November 9, 2006. Since then, NTBK has been having difficulty bringing a new auditor on board. Again, this cannot be construed as good news.

For NTBK shareholders, I think that there are better investments out there. Taking a loss may be a difficult thing, but so is watching your remaining investment dwindle to practically nothing.

For NetBank customers, you haven't yet suffered a loss, and you won't due to FDIC insurance. But just the same, there are better banks out there that offer the same FDIC insurance, and significantly higher interest rates.

Further reading:
The Decline and Fall of Internet-only Banks
Unprofitable and Unstable, NetBank Ousts its CEO
More on NetBank

PF Stock

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