Wachovia's loss ranks among the worst ever

How bad was Wachovia's third-quarter loss of $23.9 billion?

How about the sixth-worst quarterly loss ever for a company that has been in the S&P 500 index, the measure of large U.S. companies, according to Standard & Poor's Compustat. The red ink gusher last week was also the biggest for a financial services company, eclipsing $9.8 billion losses each by Citigroup Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. in the fourth quarter of last year.

Time Warner Inc. posted the largest-ever S&P 500 company loss in the first quarter of 2002 – $54.2 billion after the media company took a big writedown related to its AOL merger. Wachovia, which has been hobbled by its acquisition of mortgage specialist Golden West Financial Corp., took an $18.8 billion writedown as part of its hit.

The Charlotte-based bank is set to be sold to San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. later this year.

Rick Rothacker