May 9, 2017 / 12:38 PM / 3 months ago

Home Capital to sell C$1.5 billion worth of mortgages

FILE PHOTO: The entry to the Home Capital Group's headquarters is seen at an office tower in the financial district of Toronto, Ontario, Canada on May 1, 2017.Chris Helgren/File Photo

(Reuters) - Canada's biggest non-bank lender Home Capital Group Inc (HCG.TO), said an unnamed buyer intends to purchase up to C$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) worth of its mortgages, helping its shares rise by 30 percent on Tuesday.

Shares in the company, which had lost more than 80 percent of their value since the start of the year, have risen by 50 percent this week as investors digested moves to strengthen its board and stem a flow of customer withdrawals.

"This is another step forward in the company's efforts to restore confidence in our operations," said newly-appointed Home Capital Chair Brenda Eprile.

The potential buyer has said it could purchase C$1 billion of uninsured mortgages and accept commitments or purchase up to C$500 million of insured mortgages, Home Capital said.

"It gives them breathing room," said Norman Levine, managing director at Portfolio Management Corp, which oversees C$625 million but does not hold the stock. "They can still originate mortgages and make money doing that, but that they don't need the same amount of capital."

Depositors have withdrawn more than 90 percent of funds from Home Capital's high-interest savings accounts since March 27, when the company terminated the employment of former Chief Executive Martin Reid.

The withdrawals accelerated after April 19, when Canada's biggest securities regulator, the Ontario Securities Commission, accused Home Capital of making misleading statements to investors about its mortgage underwriting business. The company has said the accusations are without merit.

Home Capital said its high-interest savings deposits were expected to have fallen to about C$146 million following completion of Monday's settlements from just under C$2 billion on March 27. Last month, the company agreed to receive C$2 billion in emergency funding from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP).

Home Capital provides loans to borrowers, such as self-employed workers or newcomers to Canada, who may not meet the strict criteria of the country's biggest banks. Its problems have coincided with the introduction of measures to cool Toronto's red-hot housing market, including a tax on speculative buyers, and sparked worries it could trigger a broader housing market collapse.

The lender said it will continue to offer mortgages in most of its product categories, but at lower volumes. The company also plans to tighten lending criteria and reduce some broker incentive programs.

On Monday, the company named three Bay Street professionals to its new board and a new chairwoman.

($1 = C$1.37)

Additional reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Jeffrey Benkoe

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