H&R Block Earnings are Sunk by Subprime Mortgage Unit.

H&R Block reported a loss of $433.7 million for its fiscal year 2007, compared to a gain of $490.4 million a year ago, and it lost $85.6 million in the fourth quarter vs. a gain of $587.5 in the year earlier period. The losses can mostly be attributed to Option One, its subprime mortgage unit, which the company hopes to soon sell.

The nation’s largest tax preparer was started in Kansas City by Henry and Roger “Bloch” brothers when the IRS stopped preparing tax returns free in 1955. The firm has been hugely successful in that business – for a few months out of the year. Yet the firm has been mostly unsuccessful in other ventures seeking to earn revenues the rest of the year.

Its investment subsidiary, H&R Block Financial Advisors, arose from the Block’s purchase of Olde Financial Company in 1998 for $850 million. At the time Olde and its founder were in the midst of many regulatory and other woes, many of which Block inherited.

The parent firm’s latest report states: “Conditions in the non-prime mortgage industry continued to be challenging during the 2007 fourth quarter. Mortgage operations were particularly impacted by deteriorating conditions in the secondary market, where reduced investor demand for loan purchases, higher investor yield requirements and increased estimates for future losses reduced the value of non-prime loans,” the report adds.

Block hopes to receive over $1 billion from sale of this subsidiary, but some analysts are doubtful this can be accomplished and others believe any sale would be at a fraction of Block’s asking price.

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