It may seem like an audacious plan. Bank of America (BAC) is seeking to pay back $45 billion to the government by the end of the year.
According to an exclusive report in the Financial Times, "Most analysts expect B of A to be one of the last banks to do this, partly because of the large amount of the funds it received and partly because it was found to have the biggest capital shortfall of any U.S. bank in recent regulatory stress tests."
The plan depends on selling assets as much if not more than it does on improving earnings. B of A has already sold a large piece of its stake in the China Construction Bank and is rumored to have other assets on the block.
The plan to get out from under the government and the restrictions on banks that have taken TARP money may be the fastest way to prove that B of A has recovered from a dismal year, but a number of things could thwart its forecasts. The most important of these are the economy, housing, and consumer credit, which could get worse between now and the fourth quarter. B of A is not immune to the effect of these trends.
It is also not clear whether the bank will have to write-off more of the toxic securities that it has on its balance sheet or its portfolio of commercial real estate loans.
B of A would be better off saying nothing and outperforming expectations. Instead, it has set a goal that it may not be able to reach.
Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.