Monday, March 2, 2009

Economy: Bank of America

Bank of America provides one of those under the radar examples of the national economic mess affecting New Mexico. That's because there is a fair sized group of BofA shareholders in the state. I don't know the size of the group, but it is more than three or four. That's because the bank BofA bought, Sunwest Financial Services, was a public company. Actually Boatmen's Bancshares of St. Louis bought Sunwest in what I believe was a plan to accumulate properties and sell to someone bigger. Boatmen's sold to BofA, so Boatmen's doesn't count.
Sunwest had an employee stock purchase plan. I don't know the number participating, but Sunwest, as I remember, topped out at about 2,500 employees. Also, Sunwest has been around a long time, so employee shareholders and regular investors had time to grow in numbers. Since the BofA takeover in the mid-90s, it is reasonable to assume that BofA employees have continued to participate in employee stock purchase opportunities. It is also reasonable to assume that the former Sunwest shareholders are retired, perhaps for years, or are approaching retirement.
BofA's dividend grew and grew over the years, hitting $148.48/share/year last year or 64 cents/share/quarter. That was a nice check for a lot of folks. Now the dividend is a penny. A goodly quarterly chunk of change has disappeared from the New Mexico economy. Wealth, too. In late 2006, the stock price was well over $50.00. The stock closed today at $3.63.
I worked for Sunwest from 1981 until 1997 and wrote the financial news releases until the Boatmen's purchase.

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