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One of Countrywide Financial Corp's largest shareholders cuts its stake

Countrywide Financial Corp. has lost one of its largest shareholders.

An investor group affiliated with French financial services company AXA SA slashed its stake in the troubled mortgage lender from 63.8 million shares, or 10.7 percent of outstanding stock, in August, to 23.8 million shares, or 4.1 percent of shares, this month, according to the documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

AXA is a passive investor in the Calabasas, California-based company.

Countrywide shares have plunged from a 52-week high of $45.26 in January to a low of $15 in mid-August. Shares were down $1.07, or 5.8 percent, to $17.14 in afternoon trading Monday.

Countrywide has been struggling as the housing slump led to a sharp rise in mortgage defaults and foreclosures, particularly among borrowers with subprime loans.

The mortgage fallout has left many lenders strapped for money to fund new loans.

In recent weeks, Countrywide borrowed $11.5 billion (8.34 billion EUR) and sold a $2 billion (1.45 billion EUR) stake to Bank of America so it could keep operating its retail banking and mortgage lending businesses.

The company said last week it would cut as many as 12,000 jobs. Previously announced cuts involved 1,400 jobs.

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