Another Subprime Lender, New Century, Files for IPO


Braving a sluggish market for new offerings, another company that sells mortgages to those with little or poor credit said Monday that it plans to go public.

New Century Financial Corp. in Newport Beach said it will offer an as-yet undetermined number of shares to raise up to $41.86 million, according to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The increasingly hot market for so-called subprime mortgage lending has spurred mergers and acquisitions among financial institutions nationwide and has triggered initial public offerings.


For instance, tax preparer H&R; Block Inc. said last week that it will acquire Option One Mortgage Corp. in Santa Ana for $190 million. And this week, Long Beach Financial Corp. in Orange is scheduled to issue shares in its initial public offering.

The hot subprime market also has pushed such traditional mortgage lenders as Downey Savings & Loan in Newport Beach to target those with less-than-perfect financial histories. Downey said Monday that it is starting “Another Chance,” a program for borrowers with “credit challenges” and other temporary financial problems.

However, it is unclear just how much New Century can get from Wall Street. After a long run, initial public offerings are becoming a tougher sell to a Wall Street battered by slumping indexes and to stingier mutual fund managers. Companies and their underwriters are cutting prices and reducing the number of shares offered--even postponing offerings to hoped-for better days.

For instance, Long Beach Financial had hoped to raise up to $261 million at an expected range of $10 to $12 a share. But it has trimmed its projections greatly and now hopes to raise $196 million at most from an offering at $8 to $9 a share.

New Century is operated by former executives at Plaza Home Mortgage Corp., a major mortgage banker that was sold two years ago to Fleet National Bank. Plaza created Option One to specialize in subprime loans.

New Century’s chairman, Robert K. Cole, and its vice chairman, Brad A. Morrice, were named co-presidents of Plaza three years ago. And Edward F. Gotschall, another vice chairman, was a Plaza executive who helped to form Option One.