Sallie Mae to Split Into Two Companies as Remondi Named CEO

SLM Corp., the student lender known as Sallie Mae, is seeking to separate its education loan management and consumer bank businesses into two publicly traded entities. Its bonds fell the most in at least four months.

The company’s board of directors appointed Jack Remondi chief executive officer to replace Albert Lord, who will retire from the board and executive management, Newark, Delaware-based Sallie Mae said today in a regulatory filing. The lender announced Lord’s departure in November.

Moody’s Investors Service put the lender’s long-term grade on review for a possible rating reduction, citing lost access to earnings, cash flow and the strategic uncertainty of the separation, according to a statement today.

“The market might be worried that what they are splitting off is no longer available to service the bonds,” Brian Charles, an analyst at RW Pressprich & Co., a fixed-income broker and dealer, said in a telephone interview. “What they are splitting off is the higher-risk profile business; what is staying behind is the steady cashflow business.”

Shares rose 2.2 percent to $23.48 as of 4:30 p.m. in New York. Sallie Mae’s $1 billion of 5.5 percent notes due January 2023 fell 2.875 cents to 96.25 cents on the dollar to yield 6.02 percent, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. That’s the biggest drop since those bonds were issued in January.

‘Business Evolution’

Legislation passed in 2010 cut companies out of the government-guaranteed student loan market, forcing the lender to remake its business to focus on private debt. Sallie Mae made $1.4 billion in education loans in the first quarter, a 22 percent increase from the year-ago period, the company said in an April 17 statement.

The split will “create a better structure for the increasingly different regulatory environment that each of these businesses will operate under in the future,” Remondi said today on a conference call with investors. “These entities can see better success as two distinct and separate entities rather than as one.”

Both companies will initially be owned by existing shareholders, according to the filing. Assets under the education loan management business will consist of about $118.1 billion in debt under the government’s FFELP program, $31.6 billion in private education loans and $7.9 billion of other assets.

Delinquency Rates

The consumer banking business, to be called Sallie Mae Bank, is projected to have about $9.9 billion of total assets, including private education loans and related origination and servicing platforms, according to the filing.

Soaring student-loan delinquency rates in 2012 were highest among borrowers under the age of 30 who are repaying their debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Thirty-five percent were 90 or more days behind, compared with 21 percent in 2004.

Delinquencies in Sallie Mae’s portfolio are “starting to feel a lot better” since the lender stopped making loans for non-traditional schools such as for-profit institutions, Lord said in an April 18 conference call with investors.

Sallie Mae expects the separation to be completed within 12 months, following approval from its board of directors and reviews from the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the filing.

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