(Dow Jones) Boston Private Financial Holdings has begun paying back the $154 million in bailout funding it had received in November 2008 from the U.S. government.

The company, which owns a stable of wealth- and investment-management firms, on Wednesday finished redeeming $50 million in preferred stock from the U.S. Treasury. Treasury bought preferred shares in Boston Private through the Capital Purchase Program, part of the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. The program was designed to fund the purchase of assets and equity from financial institutions to strengthen a financial sector shaken by the subprime mortgage crisis.

The buyback will save Boston Private shareholders about 4 cents a share annually by eliminating the preferred dividends that went with the stock, according to the company, though that saving won't show up this year due to the cost of the repurchase itself.

"We will continue to assess the pace of the nation's economic recovery going forward and will seek approvals to repay additional amounts in 2010 when we feel the timing is appropriate," Boston Private's chairman and chief executive, Timothy Vaill, said in a release.

In 2009, Boston Private parted with five of 15 subsidiaries to improve a balance sheet stung by write-downs in 2007 and 2008 that were related to its Encino, Calif.-based affiliate First Private Bank & Trust. First Private took it on the nose when its fat portfolio of home-construction loans went south when the southern California real-estate bubble burst.

In 2008, before the TARP funds were available, the holding company sold that loan portfolio, at a loss of around $80 million, and raised $185 million through a $110 million secondary offering and by selling to the Carlyle Group a 25% non-voting stake in the company.

Boston Private received the 82nd-largest amount from TARP out of 822 recipients, according to Pro Republica, a non-profit news organization. Thus far, 58 recipients have refunded TARP investments in full, it said.

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