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Comerica Incorporated (NYSE:CMA)

Q2 2009 Earnings Call

July 21, 2009 8:00 am ET

Executives

Darlene P. Persons – Director of Investor Relations

Ralph W. Babb, Jr. – Chairman of the Board, President & Chief Executive Officer

Elizabeth S. Acton – Chief Financial Officer & Executive Vice President

Dale E. Green – Executive Vice President & Chief Credit Policy Officer

Analysts

Matt O’Connor – Deutsche Bank

Craig Siegenthaler – Credit Suisse

Steven Alexopoulos – JP Morgan

David Rochester – FBR Capital Markets & Co.

Brian Klock – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

Brian Foran – Goldman, Sachs & Company

Mike Mayo – CLSA

Chris Mutascio – Stifel Nicolaus & Company

Jeff Davis – FTN Equity Capital

Ken Usdin – Bank of America

Gary Tenner – Soleil Securities

Terry McEvoy – Oppenheimer & Co.

Operator

Good morning, my name is Celeste and I will be your conference operator today. At this time I would like to welcome everyone to the Comerica second quarter 2009 earnings conference call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers’ remarks there will be a question and answer session. (Operator Instructions) Ms. Persons you may now begin.

Darlene P. Persons

Welcome to Comerica’s second quarter 2009 earnings conference call. This is Darlene Persons, Director of Investor Relations. I am here with our Chairman, Ralph Babb; our Chief Financial Officer Beth Acton; and Dale Green, our Chief Credit Officer. A copy of our earnings release, financial statements and supplemental information is available on the SEC’s website as well as on our website.

Before we get started I would like to remind you that this conference call contains forward-looking statements and in that regard, you should be mindful of the risks and uncertainties that can cause future results to vary from expectation. I refer you to the Safe Harbor statement contained in the earnings release issued today which I incorporate in to this call, as well as our filings with the SEC.

Also, this conference call will reference non-GAAP financial measures and in that regard I will direct you to the calculation of such measures within the earnings release and presentation. Now, I’ll turn the call over to Ralph.

Ralph W. Babb, Jr.

The second quarter results reflect the difficult economic environment particularly the residential real estate development challenges. We are managing through this environment by quickly identifying problem loans, building our loan loss reserve credit-by-credit and strengthening our already solid capital position. While there are some signs the economy may be bottoming, businesses and individuals are still feeling the effects of this prolonged recession. They remain cautious in an environment in which unemployment rates have continued to rise.

Impacting our performance in the second quarter was a provision for loan losses of $212 million, up $109 million from the first quarter, as well as an industry wide FDIC special deposit assessment of $29 million. Largely offsetting the provision increase and the FDIC special assessment were $113 million of net securities gains related to our investment portfolio. We had $18 million in net income in the second quarter compared to $9 million in the first quarter. Preferred stock dividends to the US Treasury Department under the capital purchase program were $34 million or $0.22 per share resulting in a net loss applicable to common stock of $16 million or $0.10 per share.

We had $10.2 billion in new and renewed lending commitments in the second quarter, up from $5.6 billion in the first quarter with the increase due in large part to the seasonality of renewals. New commitments totaled $1.6 billion in the second quarter up from $1.4 billion in the first quarter. We continued to focus our lending efforts on new and existing relationship customers with the appropriate credit standards and return hurdles in place.

Like the industry as a whole however, we continued to see weak loan demand across our geographic markets. This mirrors the sharp slowdown in commercial and industrial loan growth that was evident in all 10 post WWII recession. Overall, our average loans excluding the financial services division were down $1.9 billion from the first quarter. We had very strong deposit generation in the second quarter with average core deposits up $1.1 billion compared to the first quarter led by $1 billion in growth in average non-interest bearing deposits.

As expected, the net interest margin improved 20 basis points in the second quarter to 2.73% compared to the first quarter, driven by increasing loan spreads and maturities of higher costs timed deposits. Our capital ratios increased from already strong levels as evidenced by a tangible common equity ratio of 7.55%. A top corporate priority for us is to redeem the $2.25 billion in preferred stock at such time as feasible with careful consideration given to the economic environment which continues to be challenging.

The key credit issue for us remains in our commercial real estate line of business, predominately residential real estate development. We have seen signs of stabilization in the residential real estate portfolio in California. Texas has held up relatively well and we have been working through issues related to falling home prices in Michigan for several years. Florida had performed well for us but the prolonged recession has recently taken a toll on our residential real estate development portfolio in that state as well as in other markets.

We are managing these problem loans effectively. We are conducting in depth reviews, obtaining current independent appraisals, taking the appropriate charge offs and providing incremental reserves to reflect the challenges of this difficult economic environment. In fact, our non-performing loans have been charged down 39%.

With regard to the automotive industry we have anticipated and planned for the restructuring now underway and no longer have any direct exposure to Chrysler or General Motors. Our top tier mega franchise auto dealer strategy continues to work well for us. We have maintained excellent credit quality within our auto dealer portfolio with no non-accruals or charge offs in the second quarter. We have no material exposure to dealers which are closing.

Within our automotive supplier portfolio, which we have continued to reduce, many of our customers who supply GM or Chrysler have been named as essentially suppliers by both those automakers. As a result, they are expected to continue to operate. Excluding a $21 million charge off related to a General Motors leveraged lease, net auto related charge offs in the second quarter remained at a low level.

Our expense controls continued in the second quarter. Excluding the FDIC special assessment charge, annualized non-interest expenses remained nearly 10% below non-interest expenses for the full year 2008. Looking ahead to the rest of the year, we believe loan demand will continue to be subdued. We expect the third quarter net interest margin to be relatively unchanged from the second quarter with margin expansion resuming in the fourth quarter. With no significant further deterioration of the economic environment, we expect net credit related charge offs in the third quarter to be similar to the second quarter and to improve modestly in the fourth quarter.

Our expense controls are expected to continue. Finally, we expect to have additional securities gains from the sale of mortgage backed government agency securities. We believe our proactive management of problem loans, building the reserves, expense controls and strong capital ratios position us well for the future. Now, I’ll turn the call over to Beth and Dale who will discuss our second quarter results in more detail.

Elizabeth S. Acton

As I review our second quarter results, I will be referring to slides we have prepared that provide additional details on our earnings. Turning to Slide Three, we outline the major components of our second results compared to prior periods. Today, we reported second quarter 2009 earnings of $18 million. After preferred dividends of $34 million, the net loss applicable to common stock was $16 million or $0.10 per diluted share.

Slide Four provides an overview of the financial results from the quarter. Average earnings assets decreased $2.2 billion including a $1.9 billion decline in loan outstandings excluding financial services division. The continuing slowdown in the economic environment has resulted in lower loan demand in all of our markets. In addition, we reduced on investment securities portfolio as we no longer need downside interest rate protection and took advantage of favorable market conditions to sell securities at a substantial gain.

We had very strong deposit generation again in the second quarter with core deposits excluding financial services division increasing over $1.1 billion including a $1 billion increase in non-interest bearing deposits. As expected, the net interest margin in the second quarter increased 20 basis points primarily reflecting increased loan spreads, reduced deposit rates and the maturing of higher costs timed deposits.

Net credit related charge offs were $248 million. We have written down non-performing loans by 39% compared to 28% a year ago. The allowance for total loans increased by $64 million in the second quarter to 1.89% compared to 1.68% in the first quarter as we continued to reserve for loan losses substantially in excess of charge offs. We continued to successfully control expenses. The second quarter results reflected a decrease in salaries, incentives and share-based compensation over year ago levels. Our workforce has been reduced by approximately 1,000 positions or nearly 10% since June 2008.

Our cost cutting efforts were somewhat offset by rising FDIC and pension expenses. The FDIC imposed on all banks higher insurance costs as well as a special assessment in the second quarter which for Comerica was $29 million. Excluding the FDIC special assessment charge, annualized non-interest expenses remain nearly 10% below non-interest expenses for full year 2008.

The provision for income taxes decreased $58 million from the first quarter primarily due to a change in the method of determining quarterly federal taxes. The second quarter 2009 provision for income taxes also was reduced by $8 million of net adjustments including settlements relating to federal and state tax audits. Our capital position is strong and was further enhanced in the second quarter. The tier I capital ratio increased to an estimated 11.57% at June 30. In addition, the quality of our capital was solid as evidenced by our tangible common equity ratio of 7.55%.

Turning to Slide Five, average loan outstandings declined in the second quarter compared to the first quarter as a result of low demand in all of our markets. Customers experienced lower sales volumes and continued to decrease inventory levels as they cautiously managed their businesses in a recessionary environment. For example, in line with falling auto sales, national dealer services average outstandings were down $445 million or 11% from the first quarter. Larger average decreases in the second quarter were also noted in middle market, technology and life sciences, global corporate banking and commercial real estate.

We saw growth in private banking and mortgage banker finance which falls within our specialty businesses. Markets outside of the Midwest comprised 63% of average loans. In addition, our loan portfolio is well diversified among many business lines. Line utilization was 51% in the second quarter and 1.6 percentage points from the first quarter. Decreased commitments were more than matched with decrease outstanding particularly in dealer, global corporate banking and middle market.

On Slide Six we provide details of our investment securities portfolio. We proactively sold $2.3 billion of mortgage backed government agency securities in the second quarter. In late 2007 and throughout 2008 we significantly increased the size of the portfolio to dampen the effect of the decline in interest rates and it has served its purpose well. We purchased the securities at very attractive prices and wide spreads relative to US Treasury. Further interest rate reductions are unlikely so the need to hedge declining interest rate risked has diminished.

Also, given heightened mortgage refinancing activity we have seen increased prepayments on those securities. Last, present market prices are at levels we haven’t seen in at least five years. For all these reasons it was prudent to reduce the size of the portfolio at this time. Our goal is to maintain the portfolio at about 10% of assets.

As shown on Slide Seven, we had very strong deposit growth again in the second quarter in all of our markets and from both commercial and retail customers. Average core deposits excluding financial service division increased over $1.1 billion including a $1 billion increase in non-interest bearing deposits. Total average personal banking deposits increased $262 million or 8% on an annualized basis. As far as commercial accounts, non-interest bearing balances excluding financial services division increased over $900 million. Deposit pricing conditions remained competitive in the second quarter and we believe we have hit rate floors on a number of our products. However, we were able to selectively decrease rates in certain deposit categories.

Slide Eight outlines the major factors that impacted the net interest margin in the second quarter. The net interest margin increased 20 basis points from the first quarter primarily as a result of our continued success in expanding loan spreads and selectively reducing deposit pricing combined with maturities of higher cost timed deposits. In the second quarter excess liquidity had an approximate eight basis points negative effect on the margin. The excess liquidity resulted from strong deposit growth, the sale of mortgage backed government agency securities combined with weak loan demand. As a result we had an average of $1.8 billion deposited with the federal reserve bank in the second quarter.

Now, Dale Green, our Chief Credit Officer will discuss credit quality starting on Slide Nine.

Dale E. Green

In the second quarter, net credit related charge offs and the provision for loan losses increased as the macroeconomic conditions continued to be challenging particularly in real estate development in Florida and middle market in the Midwest. Net credit related charge offs were $248 million in the second quarter. Net charge offs included $108 million in the commercial real estate line of business primarily related to residential real estate development up from $74 million in the first quarter. The increase in commercial real estate charge offs reflected the continued deterioration in values we are seeing as we obtained updated appraisals. Provisions for credit related losses of $308 million exceeded charge offs by [inaudible].

Turning to Slide 10, non-performing assets were 264 basis points of total loans and foreclosed property, or 134 basis points excluding the commercial real estate line of business. Growth of our watched list loans slowed totaling $7.4 billion at the end of the second quarter. In line with the economic environment, the commercial real estate line of business and middle market, particularly in Michigan, continued to drive the negative migration.

As expected, foreclosed property totaled $100 million and reflects our efforts to work through the issues in the residential real estate development portfolio. Loans past due 90 days or more and still accruing interest increased slightly to $210 million. Most of these loans are resolved quickly as evidenced by the fact that only a few of the names from last quarter remain in this category. Early delinquency or loans past due 30 to 89 days and still accruing decreased to $371 million from $495 million last quarter. The allowance for loan losses was 1.89% of total loans and increased some 21 basis points from the first quarter. The allowance for loan losses was 78% of non-performing loans.

We have written down our non-accrual loans by 39% which reflects current appraised values. In addition, it is important to note that Comerica’s portfolio is heavily composed of commercial loans which in the event of default are typically carried on the books as non-performing assets for a longer period of time than our consumer loans which are typically charged off when they become non-performing. Therefore, banks with a heavier commercial loan mix in their portfolios tend to have lower NPA coverage ratios than do retail focused banks.

On Slide 11 we provide information on the make up of the non-accrual loans. The largest portion of the non-accrual loans continues to be commercial real estate which consisted primarily of residential real estate development loans. By geography, 40% of non-accruals are in the western market and 31% are in the Midwest market. During the second quarter 2009 $419 million of loan relationships greater than $2 million were transferred to non-accrual status. $204 million were in the commercial real estate business line, $79 million were in middle market and $78 million were in global corporate.

On Slide 12 we provide a break down of net credit related charge offs by office of loan origination. Western market charge offs declined in the second quarter with charge offs on the commercial real estate line of business down $13 million. Texas continued to perform well. Net charge offs for the Midwest which made up 40% of the total were primarily comprised of $35 million in middle market, $21 million in leasing, $20 million in the commercial real estate line of business and $13 million in small business.

As far as Florida and other markets which includes national developers, the real estate development portfolio had been performing relatively well however, the prolonged recession has taken a toll on our portfolio and net charge offs for these segments increased in the second quarter.

Slide 13 provides detail on net loan charge offs by line of business. The commercial real estate line of business continues to drive the charge off levels. We also had increases in Midwest middle market as expected in the current economic environment. The increase in specialty businesses was primarily related to release arrangements. Charge off for wealth and institutional management and small business were stable.

On slide 14, we provide detail on our shared national credit relationships. Share national credit outstandings were $10.7 billion at the end of the second quarter, a $758 million decline from the first quarter and a $1.2 billion decrease from yearend. This category is very granular consisting of over 1,000 borrowers. It is also well diversified by both line of business and geography. More than half of our shared national credit exposure is in areas where we maintain large corporate relationships primarily in commercial real estate and global corporate banking.

In other areas, particularly middle market, we have worked to manage our exposure to customers by arranging hub facilities inviting two or three other banks in to a facility. Shared national credit loans are defined as facilities that are greater than $20 million and shared by three or more financial institutions. We do not compromise our credit standards, return expectations or exposure guidelines in order to participate in a syndicated facility. The credit issues we are seeing with shared national credits are similar to those we’ve seen in the book as a whole which are primarily driven by residential real estate development.

On Slide 15, we provide a detailed breakdown by geography and project type. Our commercial real estate line of business, declined slightly from the prior quarter. There is further detail provided in the appendix to these slides. At June 30th, 28% of this portfolio consisted of loans made to residential real estate developers secured by the underlying real estate. Total single family construction outstandings were down almost $600 million, a little over 40% from a year ago. Michigan outstandings of $701 million represented 14% of the portfolio and were down $141 million or 17% from a year ago. Florida outstandings of $646 million represented 12% of the portfolio.

Turning to Slide 16 and the geographic breakdown of net loan charge offs for the commercial real estate line of business, residential real estate development loans accounted for the bulk of these charge offs in the second quarter. Charge offs decreased in the western market while Texas and Midwest remained stable. Florida including exposure within our national developer portfolio, has limited land exposure and single family housing exposure has been managed down for some time in response to deteriorating market conditions. Therefore, charge offs early in the cycle were relatively minimal.

Large condominium projects that required a long build out time, 24 to 36 months are now being delivered and the construction risk is gone. We have been closely watching these projects and have adjusted risk ratings and reserves as appropriate. In general, our customers had been able to manage through the very challenging market conditions in Florida, completing their projects with substantial presales. Closings are occurring but on a very low level. Many presales have been unable to close as buyers have had difficulty obtaining mortgages and have walked away from their deposits.

We are working to help resolve the issues however, we have taken charge offs and reserves to reflect current appraised values. In the commercial real estate line of business we transferred $204 million in relationships to over to non-accruals in the second quarter with the majority related to residential real estate development.

Slide 17 provides an overview of our consumer loan portfolio which includes the consumer and residential mortgage loan categories on the balance sheet. This portfolio is relatively small representing just 9% of our total loans. These loans are self originated and are part of a full service relationship. As expected, given the rising unemployment rates and falling housing values, we have seen some deterioration in our consumer portfolio particularly within the home equity loan portfolio. 30 and 90 day delinquency rates are relatively stable however, the loss in the event of default has increased due to continuing falling home values. We believe the issues remain manageable.

Slide 18 outlines the recent performance of the non-dealer automotive manufacture related portfolio. We have reduced our loan outstandings by $1.4 billion or 52% since the end of 2005. This portfolio now represents less than 3% of our total loans and we plan to continue to reduce our loans to the automotive sector. A key component of charge offs in this sector was the bankruptcy of GM, specifically the complete charge off of a leverage lease supported by two large stamping presses. As a result of this charge off, we have no direct exposure to GM.

Excluding the GM lease, the performance of the portfolio continued to be good. Non-accrual loans increased by $21 million in the second quarter and remain manageable. Net charge offs excluding the GM lease remained on a lower level at $6 million. Many of our customers who supply GM and/or Chrysler have been essential suppliers and therefore will continue to operate.

Our auto dealer business is outlined on Slide 19. Average outstandings in this portfolio have declined $1.6 billion or 30% over the past year in line with falling auto sales volume. The dealer portfolio is well diversified with close to 80% of the portfolio with dealerships selling foreign name plates. Exposure to single dealers of the Detroit three is only about 5% which is down from 10% at the end of the first quarter. We continue to have excellent credit quality in this portfolio with no non-accruals or charge offs in the second quarter. In fact, we have not had a significant loss in the dealer portfolio in many weeks.

Slide 20 provides further detail on the Chrysler and GM components of the dealer portfolio. Our strategy for many years has been to work with top tier mega franchises which operate multiple dealerships therefore our exposure to single point Chrysler and GM dealers is very small. We have seen no impact from the recently announced GM and Chrysler dealership closures. Our exposure to the closed dealerships is minimal with only 11 customers among the 789 Chrysler dealers and 20 of the 1,323 GM dealers. Most of these dealers are part of larger dealer groups and will not be seriously impacted. We expect the dealer portfolio will continue to perform well.

To conclude on credit, we conduct in depth reviews of all of our watch list credits at least quarterly to ensure that we have an appropriate workout strategy as well as reserves and carrying values that assess our collateral assessment. We continue to obtain current appraisals on residential and commercial properties and take charge offs that reflect the current value as well as reserves to reflect that values are expected to continue to decline. We apply stress scenarios to the portfolio as we assess the adequacy of our credit reserves and we are comfortable with our current coverage. We also review our reserves with our regulators and auditors every quarter.

Our outlook is for net credit related charge offs in the third quarter to be similar to the second quarter and to improve modestly in the fourth quarter. This is an increase from our prior outlook as the recessionary environment continues to impact our Michigan middle market customers and residential real estate values have yet to stabilize particularly in Florida. We expect provision for credit losses will continue to exceed net charge offs.

Now, I’ll turn the call back to Beth.

Elizabeth S. Acton

Turning to Slide 21, our tier I capital ratio is well in excess of the well capitalized threshold as defined by the regulators and it has increased over the past three quarters. Turning to Slide 22 and the tangible common equity ratio, we have maintained a solid capital structure with a large component of common equity for many, many years. Our tangible common equity ratio which was 7.55% at the end of the second quarter increased from the first quarter and has historically been well above the average ratio of our peer group.

Slide 23 updates our expectations for 2009. The contracting economy is expected to result in subdued loan demand as has been the historic experience in every recession. We believe that the net interest margin will continue to benefit improved loan pricing and maturities of higher cost funding. Excess liquidity is expected to offset those benefits for the near term with the third quarter 2009 net interest margin expected to be relatively unchanged from the second quarter. Excess liquidity is expected to diminish during the fourth quarter for maturities of wholesale funding resulting in net interest margin expansion.

The target federal funds and short term LIBOR rates are expected to remain flat for the remainder of 2009. Assuming there is no significant further deterioration of the economic environment, our outlook for net credit related charge offs for the third quarter to be similar to the second quarter and to improve modestly in the fourth quarter. Provisions are expected to continue to exceed net charge offs. We expect to continue to sell mortgage backed government agency securities in order to realize gains.

Our goal is to maintain the size of the portfolio at about 10% of average assets. Cost savings initiatives are expected to assist us in achieving a mid to high single digit decline in non-interest expenses from 2008 levels despite increasing FDIC and pension costs. This is an improvement from our previous outlook as a result of the success we have had in cutting costs. We believe that our strong capital position, vigilance in managing credit and building reserves as well as focus on controlling expenses will assist us in managing through the current environment and position us well as the economy improves.

Now, we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Matt O’Connor – Deutsche Bank.

Matt O’Connor – Deutsche Bank

Just in general as we think about where the credit stage is at this point it seems like there’s spreading to C&I in general, commercial real estate in general outside of the residential construction so I guess just trying to get a little more clarity on why you think losses have essentially peaked here or may peak next quarter when it seems like maybe one of the early stages of the more traditional commercial cycle?

Ralph W. Babb, Jr.

My view on that is that while we think that – I’ll break it in to a couple of components, the residential real estate portfolio that we’ve been talking about in California continues to decline, loss rates there continue to decline, reserve rate build there continues to decline ultimately. Commercial real estate primarily resi across the national market is obviously showing some signs of deterioration which we’ve seen in this quarter, which we’ve seen in the numbers and we’ve begun to see some middle market particularly in Michigan deteriorate, while we’ve seen small business remain stable, Texas has remained stable and frankly, our Florida exposure while it’s jumped up in terms of problems, it’s not a particularly large exposure.

Therefore, I think what you see is where we saw a lot of residential charge offs in the past we’ll see that replaced by some middle market, particularly in Michigan charge offs and a little more commercial charge offs. And, we believe auto will continue to be a pretty good story including the dealer piece. So, it’s the composition and a little bit of the geography. So, I think we can maintain it assuming the economy doesn’t deteriorate further, which is a big assumption I think in this environment, I think that we’re comfortable with our assessment of the next few quarters.

Matt O’Connor – Deutsche Bank

I’d imagine the severity is outside of the residential construction will be a lot less?

Ralph W. Babb, Jr.

Yes. Because, I think with the real estate piece clearly, the fall off in values has been more significant than anyone would have anticipated.

Matt O’Connor – Deutsche Bank

Then on the shared national credit I guess you get notification for what you led in the second quarter and the third quarter you find out on all the other deals basically?

Dale E. Green

Yes, I would say where we agent a credit, we know those results and those results will be reflected in the numbers. On those deals that we don’t agent, we proactively make phone calls to find out from the agent what the results of the shared national credit review has been. In some cases the agent tells us before the formal report is issued, in some cases they don’t but when we know the action we adjust our numbers right then so anything that we know is reflected in these numbers for the second quarter. Final results will be probably sometime in August.

Matt O’Connor – Deutsche Bank

Then just lastly, assuming charge offs are stable in 3Q and decline a bit in 4Q in line with your guidance, how much reserve build should we expect from here?

Dale E. Green

We haven’t specified the amount but I think it’s fair to say we’ll continue to see reserve build that’s not dissimilar from the last few quarters would be my guess.

Operator

Your next question comes from Craig Siegenthaler – Credit Suisse.

Craig Siegenthaler – Credit Suisse

Just a few questions here for Dale on credit, first I was looking at the pickup in net inflows of non-accruals and this was a trend that was going down for a few quarters, I’m wondering was the delta similar to your net charge off trends in being Midwest and Florida geography in residential real estate? Secondly, do you think this quarter could be the peak in that net inflow?

Dale E. Green

On one of the slides, Slide 16 where we breakdown the net loan charge offs, you can see where the charge offs have been and the national markets, national developers and a little bit in Florida. When you look at our inflows that we’ve seen, we’ve seen certainly real estate be the predominate inflow of about 49% to 50% were real estate this quarter, the rest was mix. I would certainly hope that we would start to see improvement in inflow in the next few quarters but it’s a difficult environment to predict anything in or forecast so it’s difficult for me to answer that but I think the inflows that we have seen being predominately real estate.

But, until we see values stabilize a bit, and why we’re seeing some positive signs, new home starts for example are up, they’re up for the fourth consecutive month, particularly in California, that’s a positive. Whether that’s a trend, how knows. Whether it affects all markets eventually, I don’t know when that happens so it’s hard to call that. But, I would hope that we would start to see some improvement but I can’t call it.

Craig Siegenthaler – Credit Suisse

Could the new home starts actually be a negative as it brings new supply in the market though?

Dale E. Green

Well yes and no. I think what it indicates is people are in the market looking and buying. I think what it also means is financing is becoming more available so I think it’s a plus when the perspective of just the activity, people are out looking which means builders are out looking to create more homes. Yes, that creates some more supply but frankly, I think at the end of the day I view it as more of a positive than a negative.

Elizabeth S. Acton

And, in California prices have stabilized. The last four months in a row we’ve seen actually an increase month-over-month in prices. That’s a good indicator as well.

Dale E. Green

Which helps us on all the other things that we’re doing there.

Ralph W. Babb, Jr.

It also indicates confidence is building a bit, all point towards could we be bumping along the bottom now and beginning to firm up there.

Craig Siegenthaler – Credit Suisse

Just a quick question on loan demand, it seems like your commentary this morning was a little more cautious on loan demand than peers. We’re just trying to reconcile if that’s more a function of geography or your commercial loan focus, which could be impacting your internal forecast here?

Dale E. Green

Well, maybe a little geography. I think just in general if you look back at recessionary environments, historically people just have a [inaudible] and if you look at the dealer business which we talked about, car sales are down, dealer loans therefore because of the preponderance of floor planning that we do would naturally be down. No one is looking for the moment to make new commercial real estate development loans. There’s a fair amount of excess capacity so that’s going to be a negative.

Then just in general I think the economy is still acting as a bit of a damper. There’s a fair amount of excess capacity out there right now that’s going to have to be soaked up before we’ll start to see, in my opinion, any significant increase in loan demand.

Ralph W. Babb, Jr.

People and businesses are still being very cautious. They’re not stepping out to expand or increase earnings or capital investments at this point in time.

Operator

Your next question comes from Steven Alexopoulos – JP Morgan.

Steven Alexopoulos – JP Morgan

I guess my first questions are for Dale, it looks like you had $83 million of charge offs in the C&I business this quarter. Within your guidance are you assuming that is at a peak or are you assuming that continues to rise but there are offsets in other areas?

Dale E. Green

I think that we’ll probably see C&I sort of bump along as it has been in this quarter. Obviously, the buckets will change a bit, the geographies will change a bit. Again, as we see less of a pinch from the residential real estate, the old portfolio that one day I won’t have to talk about any more as we see less of an impact there, that will be picked up a bit maybe in some commercial real estate loans. So, when you look at the third quarter that we’ve talked about, it’s probably fair to assume that the components won’t look materially different than what we’ve seen in the second quarter. It may shift a bit but I don’t think a lot.

Elizabeth S. Acton

Just to clarify Steve, that’s $140 million. The $83 you mentioned was first quarter, it was $140 million excluding commercial real estate in the second quarter.

Dale E. Green

Right. Commercial real estate was $108.

Steven Alexopoulos – JP Morgan

Looking at the real estate construction line did you see any shift from residential related to commercial because many banks are saying that? And, how does that build in to your expectations?

Dale E. Green

We’ve seen very little of that, we have seen a little, a handful of loans, three or four loans I think that were not purely residential but again, it’s predominately residential. I think it’s certainly likely you’ll see some of the commercial real estate projects that are not residential continue to be challenged whether that be retail or multifamily. Both retail and multifamily are somewhat softer. So, I think you’re going to see a mix that will be a little bit more commercial real estate in some of the sectors.

Middle market, it’s going to be sort of what we’ve seen here this quarter. Small business I think will continue to be relatively stable. We don’t expect auto to raise up and be a particularly significant issue obviously, we don’t think that’s going to be the case with dealers. So, the mix is a little tough to call. We worked residential in Michigan down substantially so residential in Michigan as an example isn’t a major issue for us anymore. But, just the pieces of the pie are a little hard to forecast sometimes. So, when you look at us talking about a third quarter that looks like the second quarter, I would say that generally speaking the buckets will look fairly similar.

Steven Alexopoulos – JP Morgan

Maybe just one final one for Beth, should the lower level of tax expense continue now each quarter under this new methodology?

Elizabeth S. Acton

I think the way you should look at our taxes is to take whatever pretax results that you’re kind of forecasting for us, apply a 35% tax rate to that and then factor in about $15 million a quarter of tax benefits from tax exempt low income housing tax credits. So, that’s how I would give you guidance on calculating our taxes.

Operator

Your next question comes from David Rochester – FBR Capital Markets & Co.

David Rochester – FBR Capital Markets & Co.

Can you update us on the size of the watch list at this point and the amount of the early stage delinquencies in the second quarter?

Dale E. Green

Yes, we talked about it being up this quarter to $7.4 billion, that’s up I guess maybe $750 million. If you look across the components of that and that’s our special mention sort of non-accrual substandard items, it is generally reflective of our overall portfolio. That is to say that you’ll see migration primarily in middle market and real estate, middle market more so in Michigan then elsewhere. Real estate generally speaking in most of the markets with Texas continuing to be pretty good without having a major impact.

So, while its’ fair to say that our special mention and substandard buckets are still filling a bit, at least this quarter it slowed some and when you do the math it’s about 15.9% of our loans. That will continue to be an issue that drives among other things our provision expense every quarter because obviously that’s a key component of our calculations.

Elizabeth S. Acton

He asked about early stage as well Dale which we quoted earlier.

Dale E. Green

The early stage if you just look at our sort of past dues from 30 to 89 days, it’s $371 million, that’s down from $490 million the last quarter. Over 90 is pretty stable and as we indicated the list that existed at March is largely gone so there’s some inflow in to the new 90 days this quarter. They continue to churn, we continue to take actions. In this environment since a fair amount of these would be real estate related, the restructurings take longer, they’re more complex and so they just take longer to work through but they do all work through and we track all that.

David Rochester – FBR Capital Markets & Co.

Just one quick one and this is going to be a little difficult to answer, as you’re reappraising CRE collateral on problem loans, do you have a rough sense for how much those valuations are declining from the original appraisal value? I know that’s going to vary across product type but can you give us just a rough sense across your markets what you’re seeing?

Dale E. Green

Well, the best indicator is about two years plus of the residential real estate stuff in California which started at just shy of $1 billion and is down now between $300 and $350 million. Those values continue to decline and about every couple of quarters we get a new independent appraisal and the early hit was depending on what it was and where it was located obviously would be 25% to 30% and the next one would be another 10% to 20% so I would say by and large right now you would see marks that would be 50% to 60% over time on the residential component of stuff we saw in California. Commercial is too early but that won’t be anywhere near what we saw in resi, commercial will be a lot less in terms of its severity based on just the early read of what we’re seeing.

Operator

Your next question comes from Brian Klock – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

Brian Klock – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

I had to jump off so I missed the discussion Dale and I apologize for this, when you talked about the next charge offs by market and on page 12 of the slide deck, the other markets what was that? The $45 million in the second quarter versus [inaudible] what was it related too?

Dale E. Green

That was mostly our national developers in various markets. As I think you know, as part of our real estate line of business we’ve got a portfolio of national developers that are doing construction lending across a range of markets and so what this would be would be loans to national developers that would be in a range of different maretks. There wasn’t any one particular market where this would have been an issue and you’re just seeing what we have seen in commercial real estate in general which is a deterioration in values and some projects just not being able to be completed on budget so that’s what’s really driving that.

Brian Klock – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

Then that relates to I guess the balances and the commercial real estate line of business on Slide 15, the $600 million? Is that apples-to-apples.

Dale E. Green

Yes, that does relate to that. That’s part of that overall commercial real estate line of business, the $5.2 billion.

Brian Klock – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

Beth, you talked about the securities sales of $2.3 billion that were sold in the second quarter, is your expectation that if you’re going to bring the securities portfolio and maintain a 10% to assets level I guess that implies today there’s another say $1.1 billion or $1.2 billion that would be sold in the third quarter. Does that sound like what you were talking about earlier?

Elizabeth S. Acton

Well, we haven’t given specific guidance about gains we might see for the balance of the year. Obviously, it’s very dependent on the market, what’s going on in the market. As you saw on our slides, at June 30 we did have an unrealized gain of $142 million in the portfolio. So, there’s still significant gains depending on market conditions.

Brian Klock – Keefe, Bruyette & Woods

I guess the guidance would be then if you were to pull those securities off the balance sheet, the margin would be stable from the second quarter?

Elizabeth S. Acton

The guidance we gave factored in potential securities sales for the balance of the year so the margin guidance incorporates our estimate of that.

Operator

Your next question comes from Brian Foran – Goldman, Sachs & Company.

Brian Foran – Goldman, Sachs & Company

I’m sorry if I missed this but the shared national credit there was a reference in the slides to stress in the residential real estate portion of shared national credit, can you just remind us how big that exposure is and any description around property types and location?

Dale E. Green

Well, before I tell you that, the shared national credit portfolio is in fact very reflective of what we’re seeing in the rest of the book so what you’re seeing in fact is the same sort of trend in NPLs and charge offs. When you look at the commercial real estate [SNIC] component of what we’ve got it’s a couple of billion as of the end of the June within our [SNIC] book.

Operator

Your next question comes from Mike Mayo – CLSA.

Mike Mayo – CLSA

The loan losses are a lot worse than your prior guidance or I guess you kind of said that and the economy is a lot worse so I can understand some of that but what was really the trigger or what’s the big delta between what you thought before and what you reported this quarter and expect for the rest of the year? It seems like it’s the appraisals and what was the trigger for having new appraisals or can you just talk about the difference?

Dale E. Green

Sure, there are a few deltas one would be I referenced in particular Florida. As we’ve said, and as we pointed out in the slide, we don’t have a lot of land in Florida, that’s good, we don’t have a lot of single family because we managed it down so we’ve got a couple hundred million of condo loans. Those loans take two to three years to build and deliver so those are all coming on stream, all of those, well most of those have had significant deposits and so forth meaning people are buying them and have bought them.

The problem is one, values feel rather substantially and two, these tend to be a non-conforming larger mortgages and today in this environment people are having a hard time getting those things financed. So, your typical issues are on construction risk, the construction risk really on these condos isn’t there any more but it’s getting these things actually sold, closed in to a mortgage. So, that’s part of it.

We referenced this GM lease, frankly there’s a couple of stamping presses there. We had expected those would continue to be used, and by the way they are, and therefore we expected the senior debt to be paid and then the leverage lease to basically work through it’s normal course. We were a little surprised I guess that that isn’t the case, that they’re going to redo those so that was a piece of it. Then, just in general, as you said earlier Mike, the economy is worse so it’s impacted middle market particularly in Michigan more than we thought.

Clearly, not as much in the auto space which is good, clearly not in the dealer space but just in general in some other companies. Those pieces if you will, if you look at where it is and obviously commercial real estate in general is reflective of soft values continuing to be out there.

Mike Mayo – CLSA

Do you think your reserve to NPA ratio, and you said, it’s not completely apples-to-apples comparison but do you really think you have enough reserves for these problems that you’re seeing ahead? I mean compared to your several decade history at Comerica, this is so far off the charts and it seems like all the guidance is increasingly more negative, why not just increase the reserves to a level that is more than like 80% of NPAs.

Dale E. Green

First of all the answer is yes, we think it’s quite adequate. One of the reasons we think that is it has been charged down by 39% and if you look at the trends frankly, each quarter over the last two or three it’s continuing to be charged down even more. In addition to that, we’ve got reserves that sit on top of that. So, we think, and to have the level of charge offs this quarter and then provide another $60 million on top of that after several quarters of providing on top of that and building the coverage just on loans, we think it’s definitely appropriate.

Not only do we think it but we share it with regulators and auditors and a whole cast of folks who I think feel comfortable with what we’re doing. In response to the last piece, I know I’m going to be redundant with you but it’s the same process that we’ve used for quite some time. We can’t just go out there and decide we’re just going to plug a number in and that’s going to be it because you need a process, you need to stick to it, it needs to be consistent and it needs to be well documented, all which in our case are true.

Mike Mayo – CLSA

Last follow up, so if charged down by 30% can you give us any context for comparing that charge off level to maybe where the industry is? That kind of stands out there and how do we know that’s right looking in from the outside?

Dale E. Green

Well, I don’t know what others have charged their loans down to and in some cases I’m not sure whether they know or not either so I don’t know how you necessarily compare that number. All I know is the process for us is very well defined. When you look at the amount of right down and provision that we’ve taken on top of what we’ve got Mike and you look at the discipline around the process and the number of people that look at it, I feel good about what we do and where we have it.

So, beyond that the key piece is the mark. The other thing and I know you’ve heard me say this before is we’re not much of a consumer or retail bank. You know that those that are have different looking numbers. You’re going to charge, as do we, consumer down right when it hits the wall at about 180 days. In commercial, it’s a different game and you tend to carry them longer and you work them harder and you work them longer so it’s just a different environment.

Elizabeth S. Acton

I think Mike, if you’ve listened to recent conference calls one, not a lot of banks disclose this number. We have for many years disclosed this charge down number. Second, at least based on information I’ve seen in transcripts other banks who have disclosed it, they’re not nearly as marked down as ours.

Operator

Your next question comes from Chris Mutascio – Stifel Nicolaus & Company.

Chris Mutascio – Stifel Nicolaus & Company

I think Mike – I’ll just kind of piggyback on this question but I think you answered that in terms of why the guidance is up somewhat substantially from three months ago in terms of the charge offs but I’ll maybe ask it a different way. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way but I’m trying to reconcile kind of the thought process on the call about maybe we’re reaching a bottom on credit when I’m seeing, at least from a quarter perspective an acceleration of the NPA growth both in terms of percentage and dollar amount and also in conjunction with the net charge off guidance that from my calculations looks like it might be about 30% from the guidance just three months ago. So, how do I reconcile the tone of maybe we’re bottoming when it looks like the numbers posted in the quarter seem to be a bit worse if not more significantly worse than what we thought just back in April.

Dale E. Green

A couple of answers, whether we’re at the bottom or not, I don’t know. I don’t know that we’re necessarily there. If we are at the bottom we’re going to continue to bump along for a while. If you look at the inflow to non-accruals this quarter again, mostly real estate and you look at what we’ve got, half of it’s real estate and you look at the rest of it, these are – let’s pick the half that’s not real estate for a second. Those are generally very well secured transactions that we’re in the process of working through that I think by in large the marks, the loss severity will be a lot less than we’ve seen in certainly residential real estate.

So, I think the mix going from residential to other and even the mix going from resi to commercial, the loss severity is a lot less, it looks a lot better particularly let’s say on the middle market side. So, that would be one part of the answer. I think that if you see, and I hate to keep being redundant but the fact that we’ve written it down substantially so $0.39 which is down further than we had it last quarter, it was $0.36 last quarter so you look at all of that and you look at the fact that we’re still building reserves at this time and if you believe any of the economic forecast that maybe the fourth quarter starts to look a little better, I think we’re okay in terms of the way we have the numbers pegged.

If the economy gets worse, if things still continue to decline then I think we’re going to be back revisiting that. But, based on what we’re seeing on those things that I’ve mentioned I think it’s the mix of non-accruals as much as anything that drives me to that conclusion.

Operator

Your next question comes from Jeff Davis – FTN Equity Capital.

Jeff Davis – FTN Equity Capital

Dale, a two part question, one if you could comment on the energy book with oil prices being volatile and natural gas prices being soft throughout the year, maybe longer. The secondly in terms of your ability to monetize problem assets either foreclosed property or selling the notes, what’s the appetite among distressed investors? Are there any stepping up to the plate?

Dale E. Green

The energy book is about $1.6 billion. We’ve had very little issues, it’s been well managed. There’s always going to be one or two things here or there but it has not been significant. Most, if not all of our customers are active hedgers which helps enormously. If you look at the mix of our product, it’s more natural gas than it would be oil which is another piece of the pie. If you look at the fact that we have our own engineers on staff that do independent engineering studies which are in essence energy appraisals, that helps us a lot in terms of on getting comfortable.

Then, if you look at the whole process we utilize from the setting price decks, we meet every month, it use to be every couple of quarters on price deck issues, I feel comfortable that we’re on top of it, that we’re dealing with those sort of mid range companies, not the mom and pops, not the big guys. And, if you look at the controls and the process I think it’s rock solid. So, will there be problems from time-to-time? Sure, we’re seeing a few here and there but nothing material.

In terms of the secondary market, we are seeing more of an appetite. In fact, in this last quarter while it wasn’t a ton, we sold four loans of about $16 million and actually did pretty well vis-à-vis what we charged them to and what our reserves were. We are clearly seeing increased activity in secondary market. We’re actively looking at some things right now. We’ve in fact, sold a couple of loans already and I think that will be good and it’s been positive in terms of that so I think there is more activity and we certainly will monitor it and take advantage of it when it’s appropriate.

Operator

Your next question comes from Ken Usdin – Bank of America.

Ken Usdin – Bank of America

Two quick questions, first of all, within the charge offs can you give us a feel how granular the charge offs were? Meaning, did you have anything really bulky this quarter and as far as how you see things playing out over the next couple of quarters do you have any big lumpy losses coming through or is this kind of real granular through the portfolio?

Dale E. Green

The only lumpiness this quarter was in that GM lease that I referenced which was almost $21 million. Other than that if you looked at the charge offs for us, it was fairly well diversified in terms of not only line of business but in terms of kind of the average size of the deals. So, that GM piece was obviously the biggest piece that we really had to deal with in the current quarter. You never know, I mean there’s always surprises that you hopefully are guarding against. Historically frankly, we’ve avoided typically the large bulky kind of hits but from time-to-time some things pop up that you’ve got to deal with. So, generally other than the GM piece I would say it was pretty well managed and reasonably granular.

Ken Usdin – Bank of America

My second quick one is just on the margin outlook, maybe it’s for Beth, in terms of walking through the flat margin expectation for the third quarter, can you just talk us through the pluses and minuses? Meaning, why flat, why won’t you see a little more improvement aside from the excess liquidity which is kind of I think run rated at this point. Can you just walk us through the moving parts of margin?

Elizabeth S. Acton

We will continue to see in the third quarter improving loan spreads as our expectation, that was a significant contributor in the second quarter. We will also see the maturity of some higher cost wholesale funding in the third quarter. So, those are all positives that will continue in the third but it will be offset entirely by this excess liquidity which by the way is significantly higher in the third than the second. If you just take a snapshot and look at our balance sheet on average we had $1.8 billion on deposit with the fed in excess liquidity in the second quarter.

But, by the end of the quarter that was $3.5 billion and in addition, we have about $800 in addition to that of just very short term liquidity. So, we had $4.3 billion at June 30 compared with the $1.8 billion on average for the quarter. That’s while there will be a bigger impact of excess liquidity offsetting those other positives that we see. So, we assume with wholesale funding maturities towards the end of the third quarter and in to the fourth quarter that that excess liquidity will dissipate and we’ll see the margin expansion continue.

Ken Usdin – Bank of America

So that should be a pretty, I don’t know how to define meaningful but, that should be a pretty decent number of improvement once we get in to the fourth quarter?

Elizabeth S. Acton

That’s correct assuming the excess liquidity disspates as we expect.

Operator

Your next question comes from Gary Tenner – Soleil Securities.

Gary Tenner – Soleil Securities

I had just two quick questions, first off on the carrying values of the NPLs can you tell us what amount of the $1.1 billion are actually carried at an impaired value as opposed to the ones that are carried with a specific reserve against them?

Dale E. Green

Well, all of them carry a mix of reserves whether they’re sort of standard reserves or individual reserves, they all carry their own, if you will, individual reserve against them. So, when we quoted $0.39 that’s looking at the write downs obviously down to that level with reserves over and above that. So, I can’t go and say how much over and above than other than the numbers we’ve quoted in terms of NPA coverage and total reserves against total loans.

Ralph W. Babb, Jr.

It’s credit-by-credit.

Dale E. Green

We look at each one, they all have their own individual reserves after they’ve been charged down.

Gary Tenner – Soleil Securities

Beth, on that mention of the wholesale funding maturities in late 3Q and 4Q can you give us an idea of the dollar amount of what’s coming due?

Elizabeth S. Acton

Yes, we have $5.8 billion maturing between the end of June and the end of December. Of that, $2.3 billion is senior debt, most of that matures actually in September. The other $3.5 billion is institutional CDs, mostly retail brokered CDs and about $2.5 billion of that $3.5 billion carry rates above 3% so that’s why those will be very nice to see mature.

Operator

Your next question comes from Terry McEvoy – Oppenheimer & Co.

Terry McEvoy – Oppenheimer & Co.

I wanted to talk about loan demand and I know you’ve done a lot of work based on past economic cycles and how that’s impacted demand among your borrowers. So, have you combined your historical work with your in house economist outlook for the regions in which Comerica operates? And, does that give you a feel at all for when you think demand for Comerica for credit is going to increase?

Dale E. Green

I haven’t looked specifically at that. Obviously, we pay a lot of attention to Dana’s forecast and I’m sure Beth will have something to say on this but I would say that a couple of things in my mind have to occur. Some of this excess capacity is going to need to be utilized. Typically when we see loan demand it’s normally for capital investment purposes when we see the ability to move new relationships and so forth.

The other piece of course related to that is the build of inventories, inventories continue to decline and we think there is some pent up demand out there that as this economy turns, not only the need for capital investment but the need for working capital support will be there so I think that may be a quarter or two away, we’ll see, based on what Dana is saying. So, I’m hopeful that by the fourth quarter we might start to see some of that happen but it’s a little early to say at this point.

Elizabeth S. Acton

If you look at historic modeling that we’ve done there’s a bit of a lag between when the economy begins to come back and when we see C&I growth, so there’s a lag effect. That has to do with confidence that the economy has reached bottom and is finding a good framework to move forward. So, to me the hinge in all this is the confidence of the businesses to be investing. I think there’s typically a lag effect. At this juncture we see the economy beginning to move in a positive manner as Dale mentioned in the fourth quarter.

Ralph W. Babb, Jr.

Dana’s current forecast I believe he kind of things the bottom is in the fourth quarter and we’ll start up there. But, we’ll start up gradually and it will take some time for confidence to build and the businesses start to build inventories again. We likely will have double digit unemployment at the same time which is a lagging indicator which probably will not start down until probably mid year next year. So, I think you’re going to see a bit of a U here at things come out versus the old time V of coming out very quickly.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen we have reached the allotted time for the Q&A session. I will now turn the call back over to Ralph Babb.

Ralph W. Babb, Jr.

Thank you very much for being with us today. We appreciate your interest as always in Comerica. Thank you.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen this concludes today’s Comerica second quarter 2009 earnings conference call. You may now disconnect.

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Source: Comerica Incorporated Q2 2009 Earnings Call Transcript
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