updated 9/3/2008 6:52:53 PM ET 2008-09-03T22:52:53

Lender GMAC Financial Services said Wednesday it will close all of its 200 retail offices and lay off about 5,000 employees as part of plan to reduce its mortgage lending and servicing because of the housing market downturn.

The majority of the layoffs are slated for GMAC's mortgage lending division, Residential Capital LLC, known as ResCap, and will reduce work force at the unit by 60 percent, the company said.

In the first half of the year, ResCap's U.S. mortgage loan production was valued at about $35.7 billion, down nearly 39 percent from the same period in 2007. Yet it was still the seventh-largest mortgage originator, with 3.9 percent market share, according to trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance.

"While these actions are extremely difficult, they are necessary to position ResCap to withstand this challenging environment," Tom Marano, ResCap's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Conditions in the mortgage and credit markets have not abated and, therefore, we need to respond aggressively by further reducing both operating costs and business risk."

Some 3,000 employees may get their pink slips this month. The rest are expected to lose their jobs by the end of the year, the company said.

ResCap is also the latest in a long list of lenders that have stopped using external, wholesale brokers to originate loans. Wachovia Corp. exited the wholesale mortgage lending business in July, for example, while rival Bank of America Corp. got out of the business several months ago.

Richfield, Minn.-based ResCap will continue lending through brands such as Ditech or GMAC Mortgage Direct, which customers can reach online or through call centers, said spokeswoman Jeannine Bruin.

"We're not going to have a retail presence where customers walk in the door," Bruin said. (But) "we are very much still originating loans and servicing the customer."

To cover severance costs, ResCap will take a charge of $90 million to $120 million against earnings.

In July, GMAC said ResCap's second-quarter losses widened to $1.86 billion from $254 million in the prior-year period. To try to reverse the trend, ResCap took steps to cut back the size and risk of its balance sheet, and boosted loan loss provisions.

Like many lenders have done since the credit market dried up, ResCap has focused on originating home loans that it can resell to government-sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

ResCap has also virtually abandoned the market for subprime loans. In the first half of this year, ResCap made just 13 subprime loans, compared with nearly 26,000 in the same period a year earlier.

At the end of June, 14.6 percent of ResCap's U.S. home loans were at least 60 days past due. That's up slightly from the close of the first quarter, but down from 15.5 percent on June 30, 2007.

New York-based GMAC is controlled by Cerberus Capital Management, but automaker General Motors Corp. still holds a 49 percent stake in the business.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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